Madhya Pradesh CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan (Photo | PTI)
Madhya Pradesh CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan (Photo | PTI)

Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Bill, 2021 passed in Assembly

"Under the new Bill, forcing religious conversion on someone will attract one to five years of imprisonment and a minimum Rs 25,000 fine," said Narottam Mishra, State Minister.

BHOPAL: The Madhya Pradesh Assembly on Monday passed the 'anti-Love Jihad' Freedom of Religion Bill, 2021.

The Bill had been approved earlier in December 2020 by the state Cabinet in a special meeting chaired by Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan.

After BJP-ruled Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh becomes the third state to pass the law.

The passed legislation has the provision of up to 10 years in jail and a fine of up to Rs 1 lakh as punishment for religious conversion through coercion, force, allurement and fraudulent means and misrepresentation, including marriages solemnized through fraudulent means.

The state's home minister Narottam Mishra, while replying to the debate before passing of the Bill by voice vote informed that a total of 23 cases were lodged under the law which was first cleared as an Ordinance in January 2021.

While the Narendra Modi-led central government had last year informed the Parliament that no cases of 'Love Jihad' were reported by any central agency, the state's home minister said, "hum love ke khilaf nahin hain, hum Jihad ke khilaf hain. (We are not against Love, but are against Jihad).

Mishra added, "We are vehemently against all such love which hurts our sentiments and leaves our sisters and daughters in agony". 

Opposing the Bill, former parliamentary affairs minister and senior Congress MLA Dr Govind Singh said there was no need for any such Bill, as existing laws, including the Indian Penal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code have sufficient provisions against forced and fraudulent religious conversions. "This Bill was passed in MP after the passage of bills on similar lines by UP and Uttarakhand, to ensure that our home minister can win plaudits from union home minister Amit Shah".

The Congress veteran further alleged that the Bill also violates the spirit of Articles 21 and 25 of the Indian Constitution which guarantee individuals personal freedom and also freedom of choosing the religion at one's own will."

The state Assembly's former Deputy Speaker and Congress MLA from Lanji (Balaghat) Heena Kanware also questioned the need for such a Bill, when the MP Freedom of Religion Act 1968 already existed. "Has any survey been conducted in the state for understanding the need for such a Bill".

The New Indian Express