Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur on Thursday introduced in the Assembly a bill against forced conversions, and marriages solemnised for the sole purpose of converting to another religion, reported Amar Ujala. It claimed that forced conversions were on the rise in the state.

The bill, which prohibits conversion by misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, inducement, marriage or any fraudulent means, will be taken up for discussion on Friday. It seeks to repeal the Himachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 2006, PTI reported.

The proposed law – titled the Himachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Bill, 2019 – also seeks to increase the punishment for such offences from three years in prison to seven years.

The bill stipulates that anyone wishing to convert to another religion will have to give a month’s notice to a magistrate. The declaration, made in a prescribed format, will confirm that the individual is converting of his or her free will. The priest conducting the conversion ceremony will also have to provide a month’s notice.

However, those who want to reconvert to their “parent religion” are exempted from the draft law’s provisions.

According to the proposed law, anyone who conspires to or abets forced conversions will be jailed for one to five years. Individuals who coerce women or members of Dalit communities into converting will face a maximum seven-year prison sentence.

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