The BJP government in Madhya Pradesh has notified the law against religious conversion through fraudulent means, including those for the sake of marriage, that stipulates a jail term of up to 10 years for violators, after Governor Anandiben Patel gave her assent. "The Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act 2021 has been promulgated and published in the gazette notification on March 27 after the approval given by the Governor a day earlier (on March 26)," Additional Chief Secretary (Home), Madhya Pradesh, Rajesh Rajora, said on Tuesday.
The new Act replaced the Freedom of Religion bill, which has provisions of 10 years imprisonment in some cases and hefty fine for violators, which was passed on March 8 by the state Legislative Assembly. The Act has replaced the ordinance passed by the state cabinet in December last year and promulgated in January, 2021.
As per the notification, this Act penalises religious conversions through fraudulent means, including those for the sake of marriage, besides the religious conversions by misrepresentation, allurement, use of threat of force, undue influence, coercion, marriage or by any other fraudulent means, reads the document. The Act stated that no person shall convert or attempt to convert, either directly or otherwise, any other person by use of misrepresentation, allurement, use of threat of force, undue influence, coercion or marriage or by any other fraudulent means.
Any conversion in contravention of these provisions shall be deemed null and void, it said. Any marriage solemnised in violation of this law will also be considered null and void, as per the Act.
The Act has a provision of three to 10 years of imprisonment and a fine of Rs 50,000 in cases of marriage carried out by hiding one's religion. In the cases involving religious conversion of members of the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and minors, a provision has been made for imprisonment of two to 10 years and a fine of Rs 50,000.
The law allows parents, legal guardian or custodian and brothers and sisters of the converted person to lodge a complaint in this regard. As per the Act, those willing to convert will need to apply to the district administration 60 days in advance.
The victim women will be entitled to get maintenance under the law. The children born out of such marriages would be entitled to inherit the father's properties.