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Madhya Pradesh Cabinet approves anti-conversion bill

Madhya Pradesh Home Minister, Narottam Mishra. File photo   | Photo Credit: A. M. Faruqui

The Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Bill, 2020, which provides for a prison term of up to 10 years and a fine of ₹1 lakh for conversion through “marriage or by any other fraudulent means” got the State Cabinet’s approval on Saturday, Home Minister Narottam Mishra said.

The Bill, in some ways, is similar to the Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020, notified by the BJP government in Uttar Pradesh last month, which too provides for a maximum punishment of 10 years’ imprisonment for “fraudulent conversions”, even for the sake of marriage.

Also read: Jail term, fine for ‘illegal’ conversions in Uttar Pradesh

Mr. Mishra said that once enacted, the law in Madhya Pradesh would be the most stringent in the country.

Offences under the proposed law would be cognisable and non-bailable. The Bill, which seeks to replace the Religious Freedom Act of 1968, would be tabled in the Assembly, he said.

“The new legislation will prohibit religious conversion or such efforts by misrepresentation, allurement, force, undue influence, coercion, marriage or any other fraudulent means. Abetment and conspiracy for religious conversion will also be prohibited under it,” he said.

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Any marriage solemnised in violation of the proposed law would be considered null and void.

Those willing to convert would need to apply to the district administration 60 days in advance. The religious leaders facilitating the conversion would also have to inform about it 60 days in advance. Violation of these provisions would attract a jail term of three to five years and a fine of ₹50,000.

Mass conversions

In cases of religious conversion of members of the Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes and minors, a provision has been made for imprisonment of two to 10 years and ₹50,000 fine, he said.

There is provision of three to 10 years of imprisonment and fine of ₹50,000 in cases of marriage carried out by hiding religion, misrepresentation or impersonation.

In case of mass conversions (of two or more persons), a provision of five to 10 years of imprisonment and a minimum fine of ₹1 lakh has been made, Mr. Mishra said.

Repeat offenders would face five to 10 years of imprisonment, he said, adding that the registration of any organisation involved in such violation would be cancelled.

Religious conversion in violation of this law would be considered null and void, he said.

Parents, legal guardian or custodian and brothers and sisters of the converted person can lodge a complaint.

Offences would be investigated by an officer not lower than sub-inspector’s rank, and it would be the responsibility of the accused to prove his innocence, the Minister said.

A child born to the victim women will be entitled to get maintenance under the proposed law. Such children would be entitled to inherit the father’s properties too, Mr. Mishra said.

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Printable version | Apr 18, 2021 2:18:01 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/madhya-pradesh-cabinet-gives-nod-to-religious-freedom-bill/article33422383.ece

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