The Madhya Pradesh government on Wednesday doubled the jail term for forced religious conversions for marriage from five years to 10 years in its draft bill against “love jihad”, PTI reported.
“Love jihad” is a conspiracy theory used by right-wing groups who accuse Muslim men of converting Hindu women by marriage.
Madhya Pradesh Home Minister Narottam Mishra said that the Dharm Swatantrya (Religious Freedom) Bill, 2020, would be tabled in the state Assembly during the session beginning from December 28.
The Madhya Pradesh home minister elaborated on the permission required for people wanting to marry outside their faith. “Under this proposed law, the parties concerned will have to submit an application to the district magistrate before the conversion for marriage,” he was quoted as saying by PTI.
Mishra added: “It will be mandatory for the person converting to another religion for marriage, and the religious persons involved to obtain permission of the district magistrate concerned a month in advance.” He also said that any offence under the new law would be non-bailable and cognisable.
Mishra said that the bill also included the provision of a five-year jail term for priests or religious gurus who solemnise inter-faith marriages without permission from the district magistrate. He added that the government would cancel the registration of organisations facilitating such marriages.
The Madhya Pradesh government’s announcement came a day after the Uttar Pradesh Cabinet cleared an ordinance to check cases of “love jihad”. The ordinance provides for a jail term of 1 to 5 years with a penalty of Rs 15,000 for forceful religious conversion. For converting minors and women of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes community, the punishment goes up to 10 years in jail.
Madhya Pradesh had announced on November 17 that it would soon introduce a law against forced religious conversion. Mishra had then said that the government was considering a jail term of five years.
Other Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled states like Karnataka and Haryana have also spoken about introducing laws against “love jihad”. Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa had said earlier this month that his government would take measures to end religious conversions in the name of “love jihad”. Before that, his Haryana counterpart Manohar Lal Khattar had said that he was considering introducing “legal provisions” to curb “love jihad” cases in his state.
On October 30, the Allahabad High Court had noted that religious conversion just for the sake of marriage was not acceptable. The court, however, struck down its order on Monday, saying that the decision was “not good in law”.
The Centre had on February 4 told the Lok Sabha that there was no such thing as “love jihad” defined under the current laws in the country.