The Himachal Pradesh government on Friday passed a bill against forced conversions by a voice vote in the Legislative Assembly, PTI reported. The bill was passed unanimously.

The Bharatiya Janata Party government had introduced the bill in the Assembly on Thursday. The Himachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Bill, 2019 prohibits conversion by misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, inducement, or any fraudulent means. It bans conversions carried out solely for the purpose of marriage. The bill also repeals an Act by the same name enacted in 2006.

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.

The penalty for contravening the provisions of the bill is imprisonment up to seven years.

During the discussion before the passage of the bill, Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur said the legislation was necessary because forced conversions were on the rise, especially in Kinnaur and Rampur districts in the state. However, Congress legislators Asha Kumari, Sukhvinder Sukhu, Jagat Singh Negi and Communist Party of India (Marxist) MLA Rakesh Singha sought changes in some clauses of the bill.

The bill will become an Act after Governor Kalraj Mishra gives his assent.

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