After the approval from Madhya Pradesh (MP) Governor, State Home Department notified the 'Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Ordinance 2020' in the State's Gazette on January 9, 2021.
On December 29, 2020, the MP Cabinet gave the nod to the ordinance on the bill against religious conversion through fraudulent means, including those for the sake of marriage, that stipulates a jail term of up to 10 years for violators.
Offences registered under this law are cognizable and non-bailable. The bill seeks to replace the Religious Freedom Act of 1968, by prohibiting religious conversion or such efforts by misrepresentation, allurement, force, undue influence, coercion, marriage or any other fraudulent means.
Abetment and conspiracy for religious conversion will also be prohibited under it. Any marriage solemnized in violation of the proposed law will be considered null and void. Those willing to convert will need to apply to the district administration 60 days in advance, as per the provisions of the legislation.
Religious leaders facilitating the conversion will also have to inform about it 60 days in advance. Violation of these provisions would attract a jail term of three to five years and a fine of Rs 50,000.
In cases involving religious conversion of members of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and minors, a provision has been made for imprisonment of two to 10 years and Rs 50,000 fine for violators.
According to the bill, there is a provision of three to 10 years of imprisonment and a fine of Rs 50,000 in cases of marriage carried out by "hiding religion, misrepresentation or impersonation".
In case of mass conversions (of two or more persons), a provision of five to 10 years of imprisonment and a minimum fine of Rs one lakh has been made for offenders in the bill.
In some ways, the MP bill is similar to the Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020, notified by the Uttar Pradesh government last month, which too provides for a maximum punishment of 10 years for fraudulent conversions including those for the sake of marriage.