Following UP, MP government approves Anti-Conversion Bill with imprisonment up to 10 years
Following UP’s example of passing the Anti-conversion bill, the MP Government has passed a similar bill by a voice vote. This bill, if passed into law, will aim at curbing forced religious conversions. MP’s Home Minister Narottam Mishra said that if a person is forced to convert, the accused will be punished with 1-5 years in jail time and a minimum fine of ₹25,000.
The maximum sentence of up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to ₹1 lakh will be given to those who convert underage people or people from Scheduled Castes or Scheduled Tribe. Under this law, the burden of proof will lie on the accused.
The Freedom of Religion (Religious Freedom) Bill 2020 was introduced in the state cabinet meeting chaired by Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan ahead of the Vidhan Sabha session that is to be held later this month.
Madhya Pradesh Home Minister Narottam Mishra said that under the new bill, for forcing religious conversion on someone, the accused will face 1-5 years of imprisonment and a minimum of ₹25,000 in fine. If the person converted belongs to a Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe or is underaged, the accused will face a minimum jail term of 2-10 years with a maximum penalty of ₹1 lakh.
Those seeking to change their religion have to inform the government two months in advance, failing that the marriage will be considered null and void under this new law.
Talking about the bill, Chief Minister Chauhan said that it would ensure that no person is coerced to conversion by marriage or any trickery, so as to ensure their right to religious freedom. “Only recently did we bring back underaged girls from various places. We won’t allow this to happen to innocent girls from Madhya Pradesh,” the Chief Minister said.
The Madhya Pradesh government’s move comes months after Yogi Adityanath’s Uttar Pradesh government passed a similar law. After the law was passed in the North Indian state, there’s been news of several alleged cases of misuse of this law. Just yesterday, two teenagers who were going home from a friend’s birthday party in Bijnor, Uttar Pradesh, were booked and harrassed in a police station under this controversial anti-conversion law as a case of love jihad.
Several leaders have criticized this recent UP ordinance. Retired judge Justices Madan B Lokur called this law “placing on the backseat the freedom of choice and dignity”.