Bhajan government plans to reintroduce new religious freedom Bill on ‘love jihad’

This bill was passed 16 years ago during the first tenure of former CM Vasundhara Raje’s government, but despite being passed by the state assembly, it did not receive the President’s approval.
Rajasthan Chief Minister Bhajan Lal Sharma
Rajasthan Chief Minister Bhajan Lal Sharma.(Photo | ANI)

JAIPUR: In a controversial move aimed at curbing alleged ‘Love Jihad’ and religious conversion cases, the BJP government in Rajasthan is planning to introduce new legislation.

Led by Chief Minister Bhajan Lal, the state government has decided to repeal the Rajasthan Religious Freedom Bill of 2008.

This bill was passed 16 years ago during the first tenure of former CM Vasundhara Raje’s government, but despite being passed by the state assembly, it did not receive the President’s approval and therefore never became law.

Now, inspired by its Hindutva ideology, the Bhajan Lal government is set not only to scrap Raje’s Anti-Conversion bill but also to replace it with a much stronger piece of legislation aimed at curbing cases of religious conversion, including those related to the “Love Jihad” issue highlighted by Hindutva forces across the country in recent years.

The 2008 bill passed by the Vasundhara administration required individuals to obtain the approval of the district collector before converting to another religion and prescribed a five-year prison sentence for those found guilty of unlawful conversions. That bill had provoked considerable controversy in Rajasthan but was ultimately passed in the state assembly, where the BJP held a decisive majority.

The Home Department of Rajasthan has initiated the process of withdrawing the bill, citing an increasing number of religious conversion cases in the state. The Bhajan government intends to introduce a new bill to address this issue more effectively. Sources in the Home Department have revealed that the existing bill could not be enacted into law, prompting the need for its withdrawal.

Currently, there are no specific laws in Rajasthan to regulate religious conversions, although the state government has issued guidelines to manage the situation. The proposed new bill includes stricter provisions to deter conversions by inducement, fraud, or force.

The proposed key features of the new bill include a three-year imprisonment and a fine of `25,000 for conversions carried out through greed, fraud, or force.

It also suggests a five-year imprisonment and a fine of up to `50,000 for converting minors, women, or individuals belonging to Scheduled Castes or Scheduled Tribes.

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