The Madhya Pradesh government on Saturday approved a Bill aimed to prevent forceful conversions for inter-faith marriages, ANI reported.
Under the MP Freedom of Religion Bill 2020, forcing religious conversion will lead to one to five years of imprisonment and a fine of Rs 25,000, said Madhya Pradesh Home Minister Narottam Mishra. Forced conversion of a minor, woman or a person from Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe, would draw a minimum jail term of two to 10 years with a minimum penalty of Rs 50,000.
The Bill was cleared in a special meeting of the Cabinet chaired by Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, ahead of a three-day session of the Assembly, beginning on December 28, reported The Indian Express.
Last month, the Adityanath-led government in Uttar Pradesh also passed a similar law aimed at tackling “love jihad” – a conspiracy theory espoused by right-wing Hindutva activists, alleging that Hindu women are forcibly converted by Muslims through marriage.
However, unlike Uttar Pradesh’s law, the Madhya Pradesh Bill does not ask a person converting of his own free will to report it to the district magistrate, according to The Indian Express.
Meanwhile earlier this month, the Allahabad High Court issued notices to the Uttar Pradesh government, asking it to file counter affidavits to a batch of petitions challenging the law. The petitioners have submitted that the law impinges upon their fundamental rights and violates Article 14 (Right to Equality), 15 (Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, etc.), 21 (Right to life) and 25 (Freedom of conscience, etc) of the Constitution.
BJP governments in some other states have also decided to introduce laws aimed at preventing inter-faith marriage. The Haryana government has formed a three-member drafting committee to frame a law on the matter. Karnataka and Assam governments have made similar announcements. These actions are despite the fact that in February, the Centre told the Lok Sabha that no “case of ‘love jihad’ has been reported by any of the central agencies”.