UP anti-conversion law: Man gets 5-year jail term in first conviction

In the first conviction under the state’s anti-conversion law, an Uttar Pradesh court on Saturday sentenced a 26-year-old man to five years in prison. The man, identified as Afzal, was booked under the law in April last year. He was accused of kidnapping a 16-year-old girl in the Amroha district to “change her religion”. She was later found in New Delhi.
Kapila Raghav, additional district judge (Pocso court) of Amroha, awarded the five-year prison term to Afzal for ‘misleading’ the Hindu girl by presenting himself as Arman Kohli. The court also imposed a fine of ₹40,000 on the accused, a driver by profession. After the court’s verdict, Afzal, who was on bail and is a native of Sambhal, was arrested and sent to jail.
Special public prosecutor (Pocso Act), Amroha court, Basant Singh Saini, who represented the state government, said Afzal used to visit the nursery owned by the girl’s father. On April 2, 2021, Afzal lured the girl to run away with him so that they could marry, he said. When the girl did not return home, her father lodged a police complaint the same day.
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Afzal revealed his real identity after he  took the girl to Usmanpur area in New Delhi. He forcibly changed the girl’s religion, Saini said. However, before the girl could be forced to marry, a police team from Amroha reached the place after tracking Afzal’s location through surveillance of his mobile phone.
The girl was rescued within two days of the complaint. During the trial, the girl testified against Afzal. The WhatsApp chats between the girl and Afzal were also presented before the court as evidence against the accused.
The Yogi Adityanath government passed the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Religious Conversion Act, 2021, in February last year. It prohibits “unlawful conversion from one religion to another by misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, allurement or by any fraudulent means or by marriage and for the matters connected therewith or incidental thereto”.
The Act prescribes a jail term varying between one to five years, in addition to fine of up to ₹15,000 for those convicted under it. The jail term goes up to 10 years and fine up to ₹25,000 for conversions of women belonging to scheduled caste or scheduled tribe, or minors.
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