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MP Claims To Set “Most Stringent” Law In Country Against ‘Love Jihad’

India Tomorrow

Bhopal | It seems like that Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) ruled government states having fight in itself that who is going to implement most toughest law against ‘Love Jihad’ in Religion to Freedom Bill as recently Madhya Pradesh state claimed to have set ‘the most stringent’ law in comparison to its neighbour states Uttar Pardesh.

The government in MP claimed to have set into motion “the most stringent” law in the country against ‘love jihad’, clearing a Religion to Freedom Bill on Saturday that plans higher penalties (jail terms and fines going up to 10 years and Rs 1 lakh), as compared to the law in Uttar Pradesh, as well as maintenance to the woman concerned and the right to father’s property for a child born to a couple whose marriage has been declared null and void under its provisions.

Talking to media persons after a Cabinet meeting, Home Minister Narottam Mishra described the Bill as “the most stringent” against “the practice of love jihad”. Apart from BJP-ruled MP and UP, the party’s Himachal Pradesh government has also notified a similar legislation with the aim of “checking conversions”.

There is no registration of FIRs in such cases in a significant departure from the UP ordinance, but in the MP Bill says these can be dealt only by police personnel not less than the rank of sub-inspector, and that parents and siblings of the affected individual alone can file a complaint directly. In case a guardian or a custodian wants to register an offence, they must approach a Sessions Court authorised to deal with these matters and get a court order.

In UP, any “aggrieved person”, who may have no connection with the couple involved, can register an FIR. In several cases in the state, right-wing organisations have been accused of putting pressure on families to register complaints.

In both MP and UP once an FIR has been registered, the load to prove one’s innocence lies on the accused or defendant. Those identified as frequent offenders can face jail terms of five to 10 years.

The Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan tweeted, “We will not allow anyone to carry out religious conversion using force, threat or allurement in Madhya Pradesh. For this we have made our law of 1968 more effective to ensure none of the perpetrators go free.”

Requesting to curb religious conversions using misrepresentation, allurement, force, threat, undue influence, coercion, marriage or any other “fraudulent means”, the Bill stipulates jail terms of one to five years, with a fine of Rs 25,000, in such cases in Madhya Pradesh. The penalty in case of a person using “misrepresentation” or “impersonation” for religious conversion will be higher, including a jail term of three-10 years and a fine of Rs 50,000 in MP.

Shivraj’s ‘Love Jihad’ law more stringent in comparison Yogi Aditynath of UP

In dissimilarity, the UP Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020, passed last month, stipulates that religious conversion using any of the above means, including misrepresentation and impersonation, would entail a jail term of one to five years and a fine of Rs 15,000.

The big difference between the MP Bill and UP law is the provision for maintenance to women and right to property to children in the marriage under question, in the legislation planned by the Shivraj Singh government. The matter of maintenance will be dealt as per Section 125 of the CrPC.

The marriages proved to have been undertaken for the sole purpose of religious conversion or conducted without suitable notice to the district administration can be declared null and void by family courts in both states.

In returning to one’s original religion-the religion one is born into or that practised by one’s father- will not be counted as conversion under the MP Bill which is the same as in the UP legislation.

The law in UP and MP Bill predict a jail term of up-to two to 10 years in case a person being converted is a minor, or belongs to the Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe, the MP legislation talks of a penalty of Rs 50,000, against Rs 25,000 in Uttar Pradesh.

Both the legislation talk of three-to five-year jail terms for religious organisations or individuals seen as carrying out mass conversions, but again the penalty in MP is higher (Rs 1 lakh) in comparison of Uttar Pradesh (Rs 50,000).

The, organisations or priests in both states who will carrying out conversions have to inform the district administration about 60 days before the date of conversion, failing which the organisation can have its registration cancelled and the priest or facilitator face jail term. On other hand, the MP Bill stipulates a higher penalty (of Rs 50,000, and three-five years’ jail term) in such cases, compared to one to five years and Rs 25,000 in Uttar Pradesh.

In recent past, the Shivraj government conducted a special Cabinet meeting to clear the Bill, and will placed before the state Assembly on December 28 when the House will meets for three days with purpose of clearing this legislation which will replace an existing Freedom to Religion Act of 1968 in the state.

As of 25 November 2020, four BJP-ruled states: Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana and Karnataka, were mulling laws designed to prevent “forcible conversions” through marriage, commonly referred to as “love jihad” laws.

(The story has been written by Noor Nabi Khan)

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