New Delhi: The Madhya Pradesh cabinet on Saturday approved the Religious Freedom 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, state home minister Narottam Mishra said.
He claimed that once enforced, this will be the most stringent law in the country against religious conversion carried out by fraudulent means, allurement or threat. Earlier, the minister had said that the law will come with five years’ imprisonment.
After the approval by the cabinet, 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),” he said.
Any marriage solemnised 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.
Until recently, ‘love jihad’ was not a term recognised by any legal system in India. It was coined by Sangh parivar outfits to describe an imaginary Muslim conspiracy to convert unsuspecting Hindu women to Islam.
The BJP-led governments in Haryana and Uttar Pradesh are also putting in place legal provisions against “love jihad”, even though the right to marry a person of one’s choice is guaranteed under Article 21 of the constitution.
The UP ordinance against love jihad, passed a month ago, has been used to arrest a number of Muslim men and harass interfaith couples, even when both parties say they have consented to the relationship.
(With PTI inputs)