The Gujarat Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Act, 2021, which prohibits forcible religious conversion by marriage, will come into force from June 15, Chief Minister Vijay Rupani said in an official release Friday.
The stringent legislation was passed in Gujarat Assembly on April 1 with majority vote after a marathon debate amid opposition by members of Congress who termed the Bill as one with “political agenda”. The CM has announced to bring the amended Act in force from June 15 after Governor Acharya Devavrata gave his consent to the Bill recently.
The latest Act has amended the Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act, 2003 with some stringent provisions against any individual or institution indulging in forcible religious conversion by marriage. It has provisions like maximum punishment of up to 10 years imprisonment and fine up to Rs 5 lakh, burden of proof on the accused and investigation by an officer not below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police.
Also, any marriage done only with a purpose of religious conversion will be declared null and void by the court having jurisdiction under the provisions of the Act. The Act aimed to deal with religious conversion through “allurement, force or by misrepresentation or by any other fraudulent means”.
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In the original Act, maximum punishment for forcible religious conversion by fraudulent means was of four years and fine up to Rs 1 lakh. The original Act had two categories of “allurement” – “any gift or gratification, either in cash or kind” and “grant of any material benefit, either monetary or otherwise”. The amended Act has added third category to the allurement clause: “better lifestyle, divine blessings or otherwise.”
Congress had opposed the Bill in the Assembly while stating that the government was saying that it was to check activities like “love jihad”, but the Bill did not have the usage “love jihad” even once.
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