The BJP government in Madhya Pradesh is planning to introduce a Bill in the next session of the state Assembly to “check rising incidents of love jihad”, state Home Minister Narottam Mishra said on Tuesday.
The Bill, to be called Dharma Swatantrya (Freedom of Religion) Bill, 2020, proposes five years of rigorous imprisonment for “luring a person through fraud and forcing marriage by religious conversion”, Mishra told reporters, adding that such an offence would be non-bailable.
The Bill, modelled on the MP Dharma Swatantrya Adhiniyam, 1968, aims to prevent conversion through marriage and will not only prohibit conversion or attempt to convert by use of financial “allurement”, as specified in the earlier Bill, but also add “conversion through fraud” and “misrepresentation”, along with “force”.
मध्य प्रदेश धर्म स्वातंत्र्य विधेयक 2020 के तहत प्रस्तावित कानून में #लव_जिहाद यानी धर्मांतरण के लिए प्रलोभन या दबाव डालकर कराए जाने वाले शादी-विवाह को शून्य घोषित करने का प्रावधान भी किया जा रहा है। @BJP4India @BJP4MP @mohdept @DGP_MP https://t.co/k96UmRPk77
— Dr Narottam Mishra (@drnarottammisra) November 17, 2020
The earlier Act only specified imprisonment of up to one year, but the new Bill, which will supersede the existing Act, will be more stringent, Mishra said.
Other proposed provisions include making it mandatory for the kin of the person “being forced to convert to another faith for the purpose of marriage” to file a complaint.
Talking to The Indian Express, Mishra said, “Such incidents are on the rise, which you call ‘love jihad’. Such cases are on the rise in Haryana, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.”
When asked about the rise in alleged ‘love jihad’ cases, Mishra said there are intelligence reports of such cases and “that’s the basis for making this law”.
An official from the state government said statistics showing a rise in such cases were “not immediately available”.
Mishra added the Bill would have a provision to declare such marriages “null and void”. However, such a move will need the concurrence of the Central government since both the Hindu Marriage Act and the Special Marriage Act are Central Acts.
When asked about this, Mishra said, “We are working on the details but will take the Central government’s view into consideration before finalising it.”
Under the proposed Bill, those assisting “forced conversions for marriage” will be made co-accused, Mishra told reporters.
The draft proposal of the Bill will be sent for vetting to the law department and is expected to be finalised over the next two weeks. Mishra said the Bill is expected to be introduced in the state Assembly by December.
A senior official from the state government said, “The previous Act prohibiting religious conversion enforced in 1968 was upheld by the High Court in 1977. This is modelled on it and we see no reason why it won’t be approved.”
Earlier, the Madhya Pradesh government had in a letter to the Uttar Pradesh government sought details of the law being proposed by them to counter love jihad.
BJP-ruled Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka are also moving in the direction of a law against religious conversion in the name of “love jihad”.
On Tuesday, after chairing a ministry meeting to discuss the modalities for such a law, Haryana Home Minister Anil Vij said, “A strict law will be enacted to control love jihad cases in Haryana. A committee shall be constituted to draft this law.
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