Madhya Pradesh Cabinet passes anti-conversion bill with 10-year jail term
Madhya Pradesh's Dharma Swatantrya (Religious Freedom) Bill 2020, if passed into law, will include a maximum punishment of up to 10 years in jail and up to Rs 1 lakh penalty for those found guilty of forced conversions.
December 26, 2020 / 02:25 PM IST
File image: Madhya Pradesh CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan
The Madhya Pradesh Cabinet on December 26 cleared a bill aimed at curbing forced religious conversions. The bill was passed by a voice vote in the Cabinet meeting chaired by Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan ahead of the Legislative Assembly session scheduled for later this month.
The Dharma Swatantrya (Religious Freedom) Bill 2020, if passed into law, will include a maximum punishment of up to 10 years in jail and up to Rs 1 lakh penalty for the guilty.
“We will not allow forced conversions in Madhya Pradesh. Under the new bill, anyone who does it will face jail term up to 10 years and minimum Rs 50,000 fine. Many incidents have come to light where minor girls were converted, married and made to contest panchayat polls,” CM Chouhan told reporters.
A report by NDTV cites the state’s Home Minister Narottam Mishra as saying that under the new bill, forcing religious conversion on someone will attract 1-5 years of imprisonment and a minimum Rs 25,000 in fine. However, if the person converted belongs to a Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe or is underage, the guilty would get a minimum jail term of 2-10 years with a maximum penalty of Rs 1 lakh. Mishra had talked about the provisions of the draft bill in November.
Those seeking to change their religion, in context of marriage, will have to notify two months in advance ahead. If they fail to do so, their marriage will be considered null and void under the new law.
This comes less than a month after Uttar Pradesh enforced a similar law to penalise forced conversions and curtail what members of the state government term as “love jihad”. However, there have been several controversial cases of the law’s usage.
The term “love jihad” has been used by right-wing groups opposing what they say is “forced” inter-faith marriage. It is frequently used by Hindutva organisations to allege a conspiracy by Muslim men to marry women from other religions mainly to convert them to Islam. The Union Home Ministry informed the Lok Sabha in February that there was no definition for the term under the current laws in India.Also read: Explained | Yogi Adityanath's new law against 'Love Jihad'