A Bill that makes prior permission compulsory for those seeking to convert to other faiths and provides for a stringent jail term for those converting by force or offering inducement was passed by the Madhya Pradesh Assembly on Wednesday.
The Bill that amends the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act,1968 was passed by voice vote after the Congress staged a boycott over the way the House was being conducted.
Only three Congress legislators spoke against the Bill wondering why it was being brought when a legislation stipulating jail term for forced conversions already exists in the state. No ruling party member took part in the debate.
The Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Bill,2013,proposes to increase from one to three years the jail term for those violating the law.
When the potential converts are minors,women or members of the SC/ST,the legislation stipulates a jail term of up to four years or a fine of up to Rs 1 lakh or both.
The amended legislation is different in that it makes prior permission compulsory unlike the old legislation that required the authorities to be informed only after the conversion ceremony was over. Even the new converts will now have to inform the district magistrate concerned.
The jail term for not informing the district magistrate for both the priest and the convert is one year.
Congress MLA Yadvendra Singh said nothing has happened in the state in the last few years to justify the legislation. Another Congress legislator Arif Aqueel wondered if the RSS was behind the alleged saffronisation.
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