BJP-ruled Himachal Pradesh has announced a stricter law against forced conversion or conversion through marriages for the "sole purpose" of adopting another religion. The law was passed by the state assembly a year ago and includes a provision of up to seven years imprisonment for violators.
The Himachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 2019 was notified by the state home department on Friday, December 19. The bill was passed in the Himachal Pradesh Assembly on August 30 last year and had received the governor's assent. However, it took more than 15 months for its implementation, The New Indian Express reported.
The Act prohibits conversion by misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, inducement, marriage or any fraudulent means. Any marriage for the sole purpose of conversion will also be declared null and void under Section 5 of the Act.
According to the Act, anyone planning to convert will require to give a month's notice to the district magistrate, mentioning that the person is converting on his/her own. The priest who performs a conversion ceremony will also give a month's notice in advance.
As per the act, those reconverting to their "parent religion" will be exempted from the provision.
If Dalits, women or minors were made to convert, the accused will face a jail term of two-seven years.
Explaining the objective behind the law, the government had said that the society had undergone many changes since the enactment of the previous bill due to which strict and effective legislation was needed to check forced religious conversions, which are "on the rise" in the state.
The announcement comes soon after the Uttar Pradesh government introduced an ordinance last month against forceful religious conversion that ensures imprisonment of up to 10 years and a fine of Rs 50,000 under different categories.
Several other BJP-ruled states have also planned to tackle cases of 'love jihad' and have introduced strict laws.