New law to stop forced conversions
A special meeting of the Shivraj Singh Chouhan Cabinet cleared the Madhya Pradesh Dharma Svatantra Adhiniyam, 2020, also known as the Freedom of Religion Bill, 2020.
- The stated aim of the Bill that will now be brought in the Assembly, is to stop forced religious conversions on the pretext of marriage, along with the use of force and misrepresentation, or other fraudulent means.
- A similar law, MP Dharma Swatantra Adhiniyam, 1968, to curb religious conversions, is at present in force in the state.
- This law will be repealed and will be replaced by the new Freedom of Religion Bill, 2020.
- The new Bill has been formulated to ensure that the loopholes of the existing law are plugged, with more stringent punishment and increased penalties for those who break it.
- The Bill prohibits the use of misrepresentation, allurement, threat, force, undue influence, coercion, marriage or any fraudulent means for religious conversion. It also bans the use of abuse or conspiracy for religious conversion.
- Once the Bill becomes law, a person who wants to undergo religious conversion of their own free will, and the priest who carries out the religious conversion, will have to give a notice to the district officer at least 60 days before the intended date of conversion.
- The offence is cognizable and non-bailable. The sessions court is empowered to hear matters related to the Freedom of Religion Bill 2020. The burden of proving innocence lies on the accused.