MP Freedom of Religion Bill gets state cabinet nod

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December 26, 2020 4:19 PM

The Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion 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 fraudulent means, got the state cabinet's approval on Saturday, Home Minister Narottam Mishra said.

Religious conversion in violation of this law would be considered null and void

The Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion 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 fraudulent means, got the state cabinet’s approval on Saturday, Home Minister Narottam Mishra said. He claimed that once enforced, it will be the moststringent law in the country against religious conversion carried out by fraudulent means, allurement or threat.

The violation of the proposed law will be considered a cognisable and non-bailable offence, he said. After the cabinet’s approval, the bill will now be presented in the state Assembly. “This bill will replace the Religious Freedom Act of 1968 (after the approval by the state Assembly),” Mishra said. “The new legislation 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,” he said.

Any marriage solemnized in violation of this law will be considered null and void, the minister said, adding that
family court will hear such cases. A provision has been made that those willing to convert need to apply before the district administration 60 days in advance, Mishra said. The religious leaders facilitating the conversion should also inform about it 60 days in advance, he added.

Its violation would attract imprisonment of three to five years and fine of Rs 50,000, he said. Mishra said that there would be a provision one to five years of imprisonment and fine of Rs 25,000 for the religious conversion carried out in violation. In cases of religious conversion of Scheduled Caste (SC), Scheduled Tribes (ST) and minors, a provision has been made for imprisonment of two to ten years and Rs 50,000 fine, he said.

There is provision of three to ten years of imprisonment and fine of Rs 50,000 in cases of marriage carried out by hiding religion, misrepresentation and impersonation, he said. The minister said that in case of mass religious
conversions (of two or more persons), a provision of five to ten years of imprisonment and minimum fine of Rs one lakh has been made. Those found violating the law for more than once will face five to ten years of imprisonment, Mishra said, adding that the registration of any organisation involved in such violation would be cancelled and those involved will also face the punishment.

Religious conversion in violation of this law would be considered null and void, he said. The parents, legal guardian or custodian and brothers and sisters of the converted person can lodge a complaint in this regard, he said, adding that the crime would be cognisable and non-bailable. Mishra said the offence would be investigated by an officer who is not lower in rank than sub-inspector and it would be the responsibility of the accused to prove his innocence. A child born to the victim women will be entitled to get maintenance under the proposed law. Such children would be entitled to inherit the fathers properties, he said.

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