Madhya Pradesh cabinet clears Religious Freedom Bill 2020
04 January 2021
The Madhya Pradesh cabinet on Saturday approved the draft Religious Freedom Bill 2020, which seeks to ensure religious freedom for all and criminalise forced conversions through marriage or any other fraudulent means.
As per the bill, forcing someone to abandon their religion and accept a new faith will attract 1 to 5 years of imprisonment and a minimum fine of Rs25,000. The draft bill was approved at a meeting chaired by chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan.
MP home minister Narottam Mishra told reporters that the jail term will be between two to ten years for a forced religious conversion of any minor.
“Under the new MP Freedom of Religion Bill 2020, forced conversion of a minor, woman or a person from Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe, would draw a minimum jail term of 2-10 years with a minimum penalty of Rs50,000,” Mishra said.
The bill provides for prison term of up to 10 years and fine of Rs1 lakh for forced conversion through marriage or by any other fraudulent means, he said.
Attempting mass religious conversion (of two or more persons) will attract imprisonment of five to 10 years and a fine of at least Rs100,000.
A provision is also being made that those willing to convert on their own need to apply before the district administration two months prior, Mishra added.
The new law will replace the existing Madhya Pradesh Dharma Swatantrya Adhiniyam, 1968, law.
"This bill will replace the Religious Freedom Act of 1968 (after the approval by the state Assembly)," he said, adding that any marriage solemnised only for the purpose of converting a person will be considered null and void under the provisions of this proposed legislation.
He claimed that once enforced, this will be the most stringent law in the country against religious conversion carried out by fraudulent means, allurement or threat.
After the approval by the cabinet, the bill will now be presented in the state Assembly.
Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, meanwhile, warned mafia elements in the state that he will bury them 10 feet deep if they don't leave the state.
"Leave Madhya Pradesh, otherwise I will bury you 10 feet deep into the ground and your whereabouts will not be known," he said, warning mafia and others involved in illegal activities.
Chouhan was speaking at a Good Governance Day event, organised to mark the birth anniversary of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
Good governance, which means a regime where people don't face any trouble, is prevailing in MP now, Chouhan said.
Speaking at the event in Babai in Hoshangabad district ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's online interaction with farmers nationwide, Chouhan said he won't spare anyone who indulges in unlawful activities.