As Uttar Pradesh and Madya Pradesh move forward and impose the controversial laws to thwart love jihad, the Gujarat government has also started to plan on introducing a legal provision with respect to acting against persons who force an individual into religious conversion in the name of love marriage.
Even though there is a prevailing law with respect to Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act, 2003, which states “prohibition of conversion from one religion to another by the use of force or allurement or by fraudulent mean”. The state is deciding to either take actions and introduce a new law altogether which will exclusively keep a check on Love Jihad or to include a different guideline in order to strengthen the existing act and in the aspect of ‘Love Jihad’.
As of now, Gujarat Government has directed a few departments, namely, home department, law department, and legislative and parliamentary affairs, to legally vet the new laws against ‘Love Jihad” which have been enacted by the State Governments of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, respectively.
The mentioned departments have been asked to view the new laws while comparing them to the already existing anti-conversion laws that exist in the State and recommend to the Government whether there is a specific need of a new law on the line of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh or whether there is a need to amend the existing laws.
“The existing law has a provision to act against a person who indulges in forced conversion in the name of Love or Marriage. However, the State Government has been seeking feedback from elected legislators as well as groups from society on whether there ought to be stricter provisions to contain Love Jihad”
said one of the Government sources.
The Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act, 2003, mandates that a citizen obtain prior approval from the District Authority, for conversion. Under the existing law, any person found guilty of indulging in forced conversion can face imprisonment up to three years and a fine of up to Rs. 50,000. If the person who has been forced to convert is a minor, a woman, or a person belonging to Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe, the maximum imprisonment has been fixed at four years and a fine which can extend up to some 1 lakh rupees.
In July 2019, Gujarat witnessed a prominent number of religious conversions in the preceding two years.
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