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Madhya Pradesh Government Notifies 'The Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 2020'

Sparsh Upadhyay
31 March 2021 11:15 AM GMT
Madhya Pradesh Government Notifies The Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 2020
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The Madhya Pradesh Government on Saturday (27th March) notified 'The Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 2020' which provides for a prison term of up to 10 years for anyone found guilty of using marriage to force someone to change their religion.The Governor of Madhya Pradesh, Anandiben Patel gave her assent to the Bill (now Act) on Friday (26th March). The Law has been published in...

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The Madhya Pradesh Government on Saturday (27th March) notified 'The Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 2020' which provides for a prison term of up to 10 years for anyone found guilty of using marriage to force someone to change their religion.

The Governor of Madhya Pradesh, Anandiben Patel gave her assent to the Bill (now Act) on Friday (26th March). The Law has been published in the gazette notification (dated 27th March 2021).

The preamble to the Act Reads - "An Act to provide freedom of religion by prohibiting conversion from one religion to another by misrepresentation, allurement, use of threat or force, undue influence, coercion, marriage or any fraudulent means and for the matters connected therewith or incidental thereto."

Key Provisions in the Act

  • Prohibition of conversion from one religion to another. [SECTION 3]

No person shall convert or attempt to convert, either directly or otherwise, any other person by use of misrepresentation, allurement, use of threat or force, undue influence, coercion, marriage or any fraudulent means nor shall any person abet or conspire such conversion:

Also, if anyone converts in contravention of this provision, then such conversion shall be deemed null and void. [SECTION 3]

  • Complaint against the conversion of religion [SECTION 4]

Under this provision the police enquiry/investigation is barred unless and until a written complaint is given to that effect by a person converted in contravention of Section 3, or his parents, or siblings or with the leave of the Court by any other person who is related by blood, marriage or adoption, guardianship or custodianship. [SECTION 4]

  • Punishment for contravention of Section 3 [SECTION 5]

The Actstates that if any person contravenes the provisions under Section 3 then that person shall be punished with imprisonment for a term, which shall not be less than one year but which may extend to five years and shall also be liable to fine (not less than rupees 25,000).

The Act further provides that if the contravention of Section 3 is in respect of a minor, a woman or a person belonging to the Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than two years but which may extend to ten years and shall also be liable to fine (not less than rupees 50,000).

It also provides that whosoever intends to marry a person of any religion other than the religion professed by him and conceals his religion in such a manner that the other person whom he intends to marry, believes that his religion is truly the one professed by him shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than 3 years but which may extend to 10 years and shall also be liable to fine which shall not be less than rupees 50,000/-

Mass Conversion – The Act provides that whoever is found indulged in mass conversion (while contravening the provisions of law), shall be punished with imprisonment which shall not be less than five years but which may extend to ten years and shall also be liable to fine which shall not be less than 100000. [SECTION 5]

  • Section 6 Provides that any marriage performed in contravention of Section 3 shall be deemed null and void.
  • Jurisdiction of Court [SECTION 7]

A petition for declaring a marriage null and void has to be presented by any person mentioned in Section 4 i.e., a person converted in contravention of Section 3, or his parents, or siblings or with the leave of the Court by any other person who is related by blood, marriage or adoption, guardianship or custodianship

Such a petition has to be presented before the Family Court and where a family court is not established, the Court having Jurisdiction of a Family Court within the local limits wherein- (a) The Marriage was solemnized, (b) The respondent at the time of presentation of the petition resides, (c) Either parties to the marriage last resided together, (d) Where the petitioner is residing on the date of presentation of the petition. [SECTION 7]

  • Inheritance Right [SECTION 8]

Interestingly, the Act provides that even though Section 6 Provides that any marriage performed in contravention of Section 3 is deemed null and void and whatever be the decision of the Court under Section 7, but if any child is born out of marriage performed in contravention of section 3, he/she shall be deemed to be legitimate.

Also, the succession to the property by such child shall be regulated according to the law governing the inheritance of the Father. However, such a child wouldn't have any right in or to the property of any person, other than his father. [SECTION 8]

  • Right to Maintenance [SECTION 9]

The Act gives the Right to Maintenance to a woman whose marriage is declared null and void under Section 7 and her children borne out of such marriage shall be entitled to maintenance as provided in chapter 9 of the Criminal Procedure Code 1973. [SECTION 9]

  • Declaration before conversion of religion [SECTION 10]

One who desires to convert his religion voluntary, he/she shall have to a declaration in the form prescribed form at least 60 days in advance, to the District Magistrate.

It has to be clearly stated in the form that the conversion is being done out of the free will and that the person wishes to convert his religion without force, undue influence, coercion, allurement

Failure to do so will invite imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than three years, but may extend to 5 years and shall also be liable to fine (not less than 50,000).

The DM, on receiving the information shall give acknowledgement of such prior NOTICE.

The Courts have been barred to take cognizance of the offence committed under this section without prior sanction of DM. [SECTION 10]

  • Punishment for violation of provisions of Act by an institution or organization [SECTION 11]

If any institution or organization violates the provisions of the Act, the person or persons in charge of the affairs of the organisation or institution shall be subject to punishment as provided under Section 5.

Also, the registration of the organization or institution under any law for the time being in force may be cancelled by the competent authority. [SECTION 11]

  • Burden of Proof [SECTION 12]

The burden of proof as to whether a religious conversion was not effected through misrepresentation, allurement, use of threat or force, undue influence, coercion, marriage or any fraudulent means lies on the accused. [SECTION 12]

  • Investigation [SECTION 14]

No police officer below the rank of Sub-inspector of Police shall investigate any offence registered under the Act. [SECTION 14]

Click Here To Read/Download Act


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