The BJP government in Madhya Pradesh will take the ordinance route to enforce from Tuesday the proposed law on religious conversion that stipulates jail term of up to 10 years for violators, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said on Monday. The decision comes in the wake of the postponement of the winter session of the state assembly due to the COVID-19 situation.
The Madhya Pradesh Religious Freedom Bill, 2020, which provides for prison term of up to 10 years and fine of Rs 1 lakh for "conversion through marriage or by any other forceful means", was approved by the cabinet on Saturday. The bill was slated to be tabled in the assembly during the three-day winter session, which was scheduled to begin from December 28.
"The Religious Freedom Bill along with other bills, which could not be tabled in the assembly due to the postponement of the session scheduled from today, are going to be brought before a special cabinet meeting tomorrow (Tuesday)," Chouhan told reporters. we are going to enforce them. The law will come into force forthwith after the cabinet meeting, he said.
The BJP government in Uttar Pradesh had also taken the ordinance route to notify a similar law. The proposed law in MP 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. Any marriage solemnised in violation of the proposed law will be considered null and void. Those willing to convert will need to apply to the district administration 60 days in advance, according to provisions of the legislation.
Religious leaders facilitating the conversion will also have to inform about it 60 days in advance, as per the bill cleared by the MP cabinet. Violation of these provisions would attract a jail term of three to five years and a fine of Rs 50,000.
In cases involving religious conversion of members of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and minors, a provision has been made for imprisonment of two to 10 years and Rs 50,000 fine for violators. There is a provision of three to 10 years of imprisonment and a fine of Rs 50,000 in cases of marriage carried out by "hiding religion, misrepresentation or impersonation", according to the bill.
In case of mass conversions (of two or more persons), a provision of five to 10 years of imprisonment and minimum fine of Rs one lakh has been made for offenders in the bill.