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10/07/2021 India (International Christian Concern) – The Allahabad High Court, located in India’s Uttar Pradesh state, has rescheduled hearing the legal challenge to the state’s new anti-conversion law. Originally, the challenge was scheduled to be heard on October 5, however, due to issues registering multiple pleas against the law, the hearing has been rescheduled for October 22.

On November 28, 2020, the Uttar Pradesh State Cabinet approved a draft ordinance entitled the Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance intended to curb forcible or dishonest religious conversions. The ordinance was later enacted by the Uttar Pradesh State Legislature, becoming one of India’s newest anti-conversion laws.

Since the law’s enactment, radical Hindu nationalists across Uttar Pradesh have used the anti-conversion law as legal cover to persecute the state’s Christians and Muslims. In recent months, dozens of false forced conversion charges have been leveled against Christian leaders, leading to the arrest of over 100 people.

The constitutionality of the anti-conversion law has been challenged and a hearing on this issue was scheduled to take place on Tuesday, October 5. However, this hearing was rescheduled by the Allahabad High Court after the Officer of Registry failed to schedule all pleas against the law for the October 5 hearing.

According to the pleas against the anti-conversion law, the law is unconstitutional because it violates an individual’s fundamental right to profess, practice, and propagate the religion of their choice. This right is protected by Article 25 of India’s constitution. According to one plea:

The very concept of forcing an individual to explain and justify a decision, which is closely personal to him/her, before an officer of the State is contrary to Constitutionalism. The constitution imposes limitations on State power and burdens the State to explain and justify the decisions taken by it affecting the rights and lives of citizens.

Radical Hindu nationalists use the specter of mass religious conversions to Christianity and Islam as justification to pass laws limiting religious freedom. According to these nationalists, Indian Christians and Muslims are accused of converting poor Hindus to Christianity and Islam in mass by fraudulent means.

In states where similar anti-conversion laws are currently enacted, including Odisha, Gujarat, Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Himachal Pradesh, and Uttarakhand, they are widely abused. Radical nationalists falsely accuse Christians of forcefully converting individuals to Christianity to justify harassment and assault. Local police often overlook violence perpetrated against Christians due to false accusations of forced conversion.

For interviews, please contact Addison Parker: [email protected].