MP joins other BJP-ruled states; passes anti-conversion law

State Cabinet clears Dharma Swatantrya Bill which provides for prison term of up to 10 years for conversion through marriage or by other fraudulent means

Maharashta panel on inter-caste and inter-faith marriages
The committee will also be a platform for women and their families to avail counselling and resolve issues | Representational Image

Madhya Pradesh on Saturday became yet another BJP-ruled state to pass a bill against religious conversion by way of marriage. The state cabinet cleared the Religious Freedom Bill 2020 entails prison term of up to 10 years and a fine of ₹ 1 lakh for conversion through marriage or by any other fraudulent means.

As per the Bill, the burden of proof lies virtually on the accused and those associated with the accused, including organizations and institutions.

The Dharma Swatantrya Bill 2020 was tabled at a meeting of the state Cabinet headed by Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, days ahead of the Assembly session.

State Home Minister Narottam Mishra said under the new measure, forcing religious conversion will attract 1-5 years of imprisonment and a minimum ₹ 25,000 in fine. If the person converted belongs to a Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe or is under-aged, the crime would draw a minimum jail term of 2-10 years with a maximum penalty of ₹ 1 lakh.

The new provisions under the Bill stipulate that those wanting to change their religion will have to notify the district administration two months ahead, failing which the marriage will be considered null and void.

Mishra said the bill will replace the Religious Freedom Act of 1968 (after approval by the Assembly).

Also read: Muslim man, brother arrested in UP while applying for interfaith marriage

A PTI report said in Uttar Pradesh, the police have made more than one arrest a day since the anti-conversion ordinance came into effect a month ago. The police apprehended about 35 people in that period.

Nearly a dozen FIRs have been lodged since the Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020, was notified on November 27. The first case was registered in Bareilly just a day after the legislation came into force.

Addressing bypoll rallies in Jaunpur and Deoria, Adityanath had used the Hindu funeral chant of ‘Ram Naam Satya Hai’ to threaten those who do not respect daughters and sisters.