In a special Cabinet meeting held on Friday chaired by Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, the Madhya Pradesh government cleared the bill which criminalises ‘Love Jihad’ (Grooming Jihad) and other forms of illegal conversions. The bill on Unlawful Conversion, which has been named ‘MP Freedom of Religion Bill, 2020’ will now be introduced in Vidhan Sabha (whose three-day session starts from Monday).
Under the new MP Freedom of Religion Bill 2020, forced conversion of a minor, woman or a person from Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe, would draw a minimum jail term of 2 to 10 years with a minimum penalty of Rs 50,000.
Speaking about the development, Madhya Pradesh Home Minister Narottam Mishra said: “Under new Bill, forcing religious conversion on someone will attract 1-5 yrs of imprisonment and a minimum Rs 25,000 fine.”
Mishra had 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. “This bill will replace the Religious Freedom Act of 1968 (after the approval by the state Assembly),” he said.
Woman victim and her children will have the right to maintenance: Madhya Pradesh HM
Any marriage solemnized only for the purpose of converting a person will be considered null and void under the provisions of this proposed legislation, he added, furthering that even if the marriage is considered null and void, the children born due to such fraudulent marital union will have right over the properties of both mother and father. Also, the woman victim and her children will have the right to maintenance, said the Home Minister.
“The probe under the new law will be initiated only if the complaint is made by the victim of such a fraudulent marriage or the victim’s parents and kin. Further, such complaints will be probed by police officers who are not below the rank of police inspector in-charge (police station in-charge) or sub-inspector. The trial in such cases will happen in district and sessions court of the concerned district,” Mishra added. He also said that the accused under this will be booked for cognizable and non-bailable offences.
Co-accused in such crime will also be dealt with as strictly as the prime accused
The Home Minister furthered that the co-accused in such crime will also be dealt with as strictly as the prime accused will be. Also, religious clerics or religious institutions convicted for solemnizing or aiding religious conversion through such marriages too will be dealt sternly under the proposed law.
In November, Madhya Pradesh Home Minister Narottam Mishra had informed that the government was preparing to introduce Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Bill, 2020 in Assembly in the next session.
Earlier that month, the Madhya Pradesh government had hinted about bringing in a new law to check the menace of love jihad in the state. While speaking to the media in Bhopal, CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan had stated that the state government is contemplating legal provisions and considering appropriate legal provisions against the nefarious practice.
Madhya Pradesh becomes the third state to bring in a law against “Love Jihad”
Now, with the ordinance being approved, Madhya Pradesh becomes the third BJP-ruled state to clear anti-love jihad law after Yogi Adityanath’s Uttar Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh.
Earlier, UP Governor Anandiben Patel promulgated the law in November three days after the Uttar Pradesh Cabinet cleared the ordinance to bring in the Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance 2020 against ‘love jihad’ while Himachal Pradesh also implemented acts against forced conversions.