The Madhya Pradesh Legislative Assembly on Monday passed the anti-conversion bill, Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Bill, 2021. The bill has a provision of a prison term of up to 10 years and a fine of Rs 1 lakh for conversion through “marriage or by any other fraudulent means”. The bill was tabled by state Home Minister Narottam Mishra.
According to a PTI report, the bill is similar to the Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020. Offences under the law will be cognisable and non-bailable. The new bill seeks to replace the Religious Freedom Act of 1968.
According to Home Minister Narottam Mishra, the law is most stringent in the country. Any marriage solemnised in violation of the law will be considered null and void.
With the new legislation in place, the BJP government wants to 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 the law.
Those willing to convert would need to apply to the district administration 60 days in advance. The religious leaders facilitating the conversion would also have to inform about it 60 days in advance. Violation of these provisions would attract a jail term and fine as well.
In cases of religious conversion of members of the Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes and minors, a provision has been made for imprisonment and fine also. The law has a provision of three to 10 years of imprisonment and fine of Rs 50,000 in cases of marriage carried out by hiding religion, misrepresentation or impersonation.
In case of mass conversions (of two or more persons), a provision of five to 10 years of imprisonment and a minimum fine of Rs 1 lakh has been made. Repeat offenders would face five to 10 years of imprisonment. The registration of any organisation involved in such violation will be cancelled. Religious conversion in violation of this law would be considered null and void.