Weeks after the Karnataka and Haryana governments said they were considering legislation against "love jihad", Madhya Pradesh Home Minister Narottam Mishra today said the state government would soon bring in a law to counter the problem.
A bill may be brought in in the next assembly session itself to tackle "love jihad", Mr Mishra said, adding there will be a provision of five years rigorous imprisonment in it.
"The Madhya Pradesh government has decided to bring in the Dharma Swatantrya Bill 2020. Under this the practice of coercing someone into marriage by cajoling or pressuring will be made punishable by five-year rigorous imprisonment. Those assisting in such crimes will also be treated as primary accused...It will be a non-bailable offence," Mr Mishra told NDTV today.
"For voluntary conversion for marriage, it will be mandatory to apply to the collector a month in advance," he said, adding that no community will be targeted under the law.
In February this year, the Central government had told Parliament that the term "love jihad" is not defined under any existing law and no case has been reported by any central agency. With this, the central government had for the first time officially distanced itself from the idea of rightwing religious groups using marriage as a ruse to convert women.
However, on November 6, Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa said his government was keen on bringing in such a law against religious conversion in the name of "love jihad".
On the same day, Haryana Home Minister Anil Vij told the state Assembly that the government was considering a similar law and has sought information from Himachal Pradesh administration on this. The Himachal Pradesh assembly had last year passed a bill against conversion by force, inducement or through marriages solemnised for the "sole purpose" of adopting a new religion.
The Allahabad High Court in September had said that religious conversion only for the purpose of marriage was not acceptable. The court was referring to its earlier order refusing to interfere in a couple's petition seeking protection from relatives interfering in their married life three months after their marriage.
The Allahabad High Court order recorded that the woman was Muslim by birth and had converted her religion from Islam to Hinduism in June this year, exactly a month and two days before her marriage.