Madhya Pradesh cabinet clears Bill against 'Love Jihad'

Madhya Pradesh cabinet clears bill against 'Love Jihad'

Under this new Freedom of Religion Bill 2020, forcing religious conversion will attract 1-5 years of imprisonment and a minimum Rs 25,000 fine

Shivraj SIngh Chouhan. Credit: PTI

After Uttar Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh cabinet on Saturday approved a stringent Religious Freedom Bill with provisions for a jail term of up to 10 years and a fine of Rs 1 lakh for conversion through marriage or by any forceful means.

The Madhya Pradesh Religious Freedom Bill also puts the onus on the priest carrying out religious conversion to give a 60-day prior notice to district authorities failing which he could face a minimum three-year jail term and penalty of Rs 50,000.

The Bill also considers the conversion of two or more persons at one time as “mass conversion” and any violation would attract a five-10 year jail term and a minimum fine of Rs one lakh.

Madhya Pradesh Home Minister Narottam Mishra claimed that once enforced, this will be the most stringent law in the country against religious conversion carried out by fraudulent means, allurement, or threat.

“This bill will replace the Religious Freedom Act of 1968 (after the approval by the state Assembly),” Mishra said.

Any marriage solemnised only for the purpose of converting a person will be considered null and void under the provisions of this proposed legislation, he added.

Under the proposed law, a person who is converted to another religion or his parents or siblings can report the alleged crime at the nearest police station. After appropriate orders from a court, the legal guardian or custodian of the person converted can also register a complaint.

The crimes registered under this proposed law would be cognizable and non-bailable and the cases would be heard in a sessions court. Cases registered under this law would be investigated by a police officer of a rank not lower than a sub-inspector at the local police station and the burden of proving innocence would be on the accused.

Any marriage in contravention of the law would stand annulled, but a child born out of such wedlock would have a right to the father’s property. Both the woman and the child will also be entitled to receive maintenance from the father even after the annulment of the marriage.