The Madhya Pradesh Cabinet approved the bill against forceful inter-faith conversions — or the so-called "love jihad" — amid similar step being taken by Uttar Pradesh recently.
"Under new Bill, forcing religious conversion on someone will attract one to five years of imprisonment and a minimum Rs 25,000 fine. Forced conversion of a minor, woman or a person from Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe, would draw a minimum jail term of 2-10 years with a minimum penalty of Rs 50,000," said Madhya Pradesh Home Minister Narottam Mishra.
After the approval by the cabinet, the bill will now be presented in the state Assembly. The new Act is set to replace the existing MP Dharma Swatantrya Adhiniyam, 1968, law. According to a report in Indian Express, the BJP government argues that the 1968 law is outdated and is being reworked in light of the experience of the past 50 years in the state regarding forced conversions, with improved definitions and higher penalties to prohibit such crimes, particularly forced religious conversions on the pretext of marriage.
However, unlike the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Religious Conversion Ordinance, under the MP law, a person converting of his own free will does not have to report it to the district magistrate. In case a person approaches a priest for such a conversion though, the priest concerned has to inform the district administration.
Any marriage solemnized only for the purpose of converting a person will be considered null and void under the provisions of this proposed legislation, he said. A provision is also being made that those willing to convert need to apply before the district administration two months prior, Mishra said.