Madhya Pradesh has drawn up a draft bill to punish "Love Jihad", which provides for a 10-year jail term for people marrying with the aim of religious conversion. The religious clerics solemnizing such a marriage would have to face jail too, for them the term is five years, state minister Narottam Mishra told reporters today after chairing a meeting where the draft of the Dharma Swatantrata Bill 2020 was finalised.
For voluntary conversion for marriage, it will be mandatory to apply to the collector a month in advance, the minister said. The guardians can complain in such cases and anyone facilitating such marriages will be considered an accused and be penalized, the minister said. For institutions which organise such an activity, their registration will be cancelled.
Asked if the government will make the law more stringent, the minister responded in the affirmative.
The draft has been readied in eight days. Last week, the minister had announced that the state would bring a bill in the next assembly session to check "love jihad" - a right-wing coinage targeting inter-faith marriages. Such marriages, they say, is a ruse adopted by Muslim men to forcibly convert Hindu women to Islam.
The term "love jihad is not defined by law", the Union Home Ministry had told parliament in February, adding that no such case had been reported by the central agencies.
But since Mr Mishra's remark of November 17, several BJP-ruled states have been talking of introducing a similar law. The list includes Haryana and Karnataka. Bihar should also follow suit, Union minister Giriraj Singh has said.
Uttar Pradesh, which has a chunk of Muslim population, has been first off the block with an Ordinance or executive order, which says religious conversions that use falsehood, force or an incentive, or take place solely for the purpose of marriage will be declared a crime.
Those who plan to convert after marriage will have to give two months' notice to the district magistrate. The person converting will have to prove that it was not forced or for marriage. All cases will be non-bailable.
The ordinance came weeks after Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath cited an Allahabad High Court order to invoke "Ram naam satya" - a Hindu funeral chant - to issue a thinly-veiled threat to "those who... play with our sisters' respect".
Hours before the ordinance was passed, the Allahabad High Court cancelled a case against a man in an inter-faith marriage, saying "Interference in a personal relationship would constitute a serious encroachment into the right to freedom of choice of the two individuals".