Updated: March 9, 2021 4:23:24 am
The Madhya Pradesh Assembly passed the Freedom to Religion Bill, 2021 with a voice vote Monday amidst opposition from the Congress and chants of ‘Jai Shree Ram’ from the treasure benches.
Earlier, the Freedom to Religion Ordinance was cleared in a special cabinet meeting in December last week and came into effect on January 9. Since then, there have been at least 16 cases registered under the new ordinance across Madhya Pradesh.
Speaking to reporters after the bill was passed, Home Minister Narottam Mishra said, “Any love that leads towards jihad, we will oppose it. Any love that offends our sentiments, we’ll oppose it. Any love who will make our daughters and sisters suffer, we’ll oppose it.”
The minister said he was saddened by how the Congress has opposed the bill on the day that marks the International Women’s Day. He accused the Congress of playing politics of appeasement and spreading misinformation.
This comes after senior Congress leader Dr. Govind Singh accused Mishra of getting the bill passed on the lines of a similar law approved by Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand governments to win brownie points in Home Minister Amit Shah’s Court. Opposing the bill, the former minister and and Lahar MLA called Mishra Shah’s warrior in MP and said, “Does this bill not violate Article 21 of the constitution that guarantees personal freedom and liberty and Article 25 that guarantees a person the freedom of choosing the religion of his own will?”
Heena Kavera, the Congress MLA from Balaghat, questioned the base behind framing this law abs asked if any survey has been conducted to substantiate the need for such a bill. “Considering there is already an act (MP Freedom of Religion Act-1968) against forced conversion, why is this new bill needed?… The total numbers of FIRs registered in this regard should be given out by the home minister while answering succulently.”
However, emphasising the need for a new law prohibiting religious conversion through fraudulent means, BJP MLA from Mandsaur, Yashpal Singh Sisodia, pointed out that in this day and age of social media, a Rafiq identifies himself as Ravi befriends a girl and gets married in a court until which the innocent girl does not realise how she had been tricked.
Speaking in the favour of the bill, BJP MLA from Hoshangabad, Sitaram Sharma, suggested that there should be changes made under Section 4 of the act that only allows blood relatives, siblings, guardians to register a complaint to get an FIR registered alleging forced conversion. Sharma suggested, “Social institutions should also be included in this because many times such people do not come forward because of fear.”
The bill has a provision of imprisonment up to 10 years and a fine of Rs 1 lakh to curb fraudulent conversions done using misrepresentation, allurement and force among other things.
According to the Home Minister, there have been 23 cases registered under it so far with the highest of seven cases in Bhopal range, five in Indore, four each in Jabalpur and Rewa and three in Gwalior division. However, as per police records there are only 16 cases so far.
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