The Freedom of Religion Bill 2021 was passed by the Madhya Pradesh Assembly on Monday, 8 March, by a voice vote.
The bill had earlier come into effect as the Freedom of Religion Ordinance 2020, which was cleared by the cabinet in December and promulgated by the Madhya Pradesh Assembly on 9 January 2021.
Following this, state Home Minister Narottam Mishra presented the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Bill 2021 in the House on 1 March 2021.
WHAT DOES THE BILL SAY?
The bill claims to “provide freedom of religion” by prohibiting religious conversions using misrepresentation, allurement, force, use of threat, undue influence, coercion, marriage or any other “fraudulent means.”
In some cases, of ‘misrepresentation and impersonation,’ the bill had provisions of imprisonment for upto 10 years, and fines of as much Rs 50,000 for violators.
OTHER STATES WITH ANTI-CONVERSION LAWS
Several states under the BJP administration, including Uttar Pradesh and Haryana, have brought in anti-conversion laws against what has widely been referred to as ‘love jihad’.
The UP Assembly had passed the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Religious Conversion Bill, 2021 on 23 February, even as Opposition leaders stressed that the new law was an infringement of one’s fundamental rights, as marriage was a private matter between two individuals.
The MP Bill differs from the UP’s Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Religious Conversion Bill in its process of registration of FIRs, and states that only a sub-inspector or police personnel of a higher rank can deal with such cases, and only parents, legal guardians or custodians, and siblings of the person affected can lodge a complaint.
Within a month of the Madhya Pradesh ordinance being notified, Home Minister Mishra informed that as many as 23 cases were registered under it.
He said that Bhopal reported the highest number of cases, seven, while Indore reported five cases. Four cases were reported in Jabalpur and Rewa each, and Gwalior reported a total of three cases.
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