The Himachal Pradesh government on Thursday introduced in the assembly a bill against forced religious conversion, seeking to replace the previous legislation and providing imprisonment up to seven years.
The Himachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Bill, 2019, introduced by Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur, will be taken up for discussion on Friday.
If passed, it will replace the Himachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 2006.
The proposed Bill prohibits conversion by misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, inducement, marriage or any fraudulent means.
The Bill makes a one-month prior declaration mandatory for conversion.
Anybody abetting or conspiring such conversion will face imprisonment from a year to five years.
If Dalits, women or minors are forced to convert, the jail term will be between two and seven years.
Section 7 of the Bill states that a person wanting to convert will give a declaration on a prescribed pro forma for at least one month in advance to the district magistrate, stating that he is converting on his own.
This condition won't apply to those reconverting to their parent religion.
Any marriage for the sole purpose of conversion will also be declared null and void under Section 5 of the Bill.
Explaining the objective and reason behind the proposed legislation, the government said it was being introduced as society had undergone many changes since the enactment of the previous Bill due to which a stringent and effective legislation was required to check forced religious conversions, which are "on the rise" in the state.
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