The Maharashtra government on Friday said it is planning to bring in a law against ‘love jihad’. Sources told CNN-News18 that the administrative process for the matter is yet to be started. Earlier, it was reported that the BJP was already mulling the grounds for an anti-conversion law in the state with party leaders demanding stricter laws for the ‘love jihad’ issue.
The issue of ‘love jihad’ has been a constant in garnering headlines over the last few years and reignited in Maharashtra in the backdrop of the Shraddha Walkar murder case in which the victim who hailed from the state and had shifted to Delhi with her partner was killed and chopped by him.
Walkar case, belonging to Maharashtra’s Vasai, was killed by her live-in partner Aaftab Poonawala, who chopped her body into 35 pieces, kept the pieces in a 300-litre fridge for almost three weeks at his residence in South Delhi’s Mehrauli before dumping them across the city.
On Friday, after Walkar’s father met Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and demanded the accused be give capital punishment, he said, “We have not taken any decision yet, but we will study the laws made by different states in this regard."
The murder sparked massive outrage as soon as it was reported and brought to focus the issue of ‘love jihad’ once again.
Let’s Look at How Some States Deal With Conversions
Uttar Pradesh First State to Bring Law Against ‘Love Jihad’
Uttar Pradesh became the first state to bring an anti-love jihad law in November 2020, with Governor Anandiben Patel promulgating the UP Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance 2020. The law is aimed at curbing forcible or “dishonest" religious conversions in Uttar Pradesh to check ‘love jihad’.
The development came days after the state government approved a draft ordinance to curb forcible or “dishonest" religious conversions including those for the sake of marriage, which could land violators in jail for up to 10 years.
For conversions of minors and women of SC/ST community, there will be a jail term of three to 10 years with a Rs 25,000 penalty. In case of mass conversion, offenders can be penalised with a jail term of 3-10 years and a fine of at least Rs 50,000.
Under UP’s anti-‘love jihad’ law, a marriage will be declared “null and void” if the conversion of a woman is solely for that purpose. Those wishing to change their religion after marriage need to apply to the district magistrate.
Uttarakhand Makes Anti-conversion Law Stricter
The Uttarakhand Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Bill, 2022 was approved by the Uttarakhand Assembly in November this year in order to strengthen the 2018 “Anti Conversion Law”.
The amendment increased the maximum sentence for “forcible conversion” from five years to ten years in jail and also made conversion a cognizable and non-bailable “crime.”
On the first day of the winter session of the Uttarakhand assembly, state minister Satpal Maharaj introduced the bill before the State Assembly, which was passed a day later—to make the four-year-old anti-conversion Act- Uttarakhand ‘Freedom of Religion’ Act, 2018- even more stringent, stricter and firmer.
Karnataka Amends Law
The Karnataka Legislative Assembly passed the Karnataka Protection of Right to Freedom of Religion Bill, 2022, (popularly called the anti-conversion Bill) by voice vote even as Opposition (Congress) protested against it. The Bill was passed by the Legislative Council on September 15. With its passage in Assembly, both Houses of the Karnataka legislature have passed the Bill.
Madhya Pradesh Calls for Stricter Action
The Madhya Pradesh Assembly passed a bill that penalises religious conversion through marriage or any other fraudulent means and provides for a prison sentence of up to 10 years. While the opposition Congress questioned the need for a new law, home minister Narottam Mishra said that unlike the 1968 legislation, the present act provides for annulment of marriage and a harsher sentence. The act also provides for a fine of up to Rs 1 lakh. It replaced an ordinance promulgated by the BJP government on January 9. A similar law has been enforced in the BJP-ruled Uttar Pradesh.
Gujarat Tweaks Law to Stop Conversion
The Gujarat Assembly had passed the Freedom of Religion Act, 2003 amendment Bill that seeks to penalise forcible or fraudulent religious conversion by marriage or “love jihad”. The new bill brought in stringent provisions against forcible conversion through marriage or allurement. The Bill has provisions for 3 to 10 years in jail and a fine of up to ₹5 lakh if found guilty.
The anti-conversion bill of Haryana was approved by the state assembly in March 2022 amid protests and walkout by the Opposition. Under this bill, forced religious conversion is punishable with a fine of at least Rs 1 lakh and up to five years in jail under the Haryana Prevention of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Bill, 2022. As per this bill, a person who converts or attempts to convert a minor, a woman, or a member of a Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe shall be punished with imprisonment for a term that shall not be less than four years, which may extend to 10 years, and liable to a fine of not less than Rs 3 lakh.
The Himachal Pradesh Assembly approved a bill in August 2022, making state’s anti-conversion statute from 2019 more stringent by prohibiting converts from receiving “any benefit” from their parents’ religion or caste and increasing the maximum punishment to 10 years in prison.
The Himachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Bill, 2022, which was approved by voice vote, also forbids “mass conversion,” which is the forced or coerced conversion of two or more persons at once.
The bill also suggests increasing the maximum sentence for unauthorised conversions from seven years to a maximum of 10 years. The Himachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 2019 was amended by a bill that was filed by the BJP-led government.
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