Himachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 2019 notified on Friday: A fight against Love Jihad?

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Himachal Pradesh, recently, enacted a law, which guarantees a more stringent plan of action against the people who force others for converting from the religion that they follow to another.

Himachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 2019 – Download the Full Act

The law situates punishment for a person who forces, induces, or solemnly changes a religion for the purpose of getting married, and sentences them to a minimum of 7 years of imprisonment and/or fine. This Law replaces a law of 2006 which had previously been repealed by the assembly. Subsequently, the Himachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 2019, was notified on Friday, by the State Home Department, that the Bill has been passed by the assembly and is an Act now.

About the Himachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 2019

The development comes in the backdrop of the Uttar Pradesh government notifying an ordinance last month against forcible or fraudulent religious conversion that provides for imprisonment of up to 10 years and a maximum fine of Rs 50,000 under different categories. Several other BJP-ruled states are mulling such laws which party leaders say are aimed at fighting ‘love jihad’, a term used by them for the alleged tricking of Hindu women into converting to Islam for marriage.

The Bill was passed in the Himachal Pradesh Assembly on August 30’ 2019, which received the Governor’s Assent. Regardless, it took more than some 15 months for the approval of the Home Department and for the issuance of the notice for its implementation.

The Act punishes anyone who forcefully tries to make a person convert their religion, by inducing them with money or any other means and sentences them to the imprisonment of not less than 7 years. The act also punishes anyone who converts to another religion for the sole purpose of marriage.

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.

As per the passed act, anyone, who wants to convert into another religion would need to give at least a month’s notice. And the priest who will perform the converting ceremony would need to give a month’s notice prior to the ceremony as well.

Ones who would want to/like to convert back to their parent religion are exempted from this provision, meaning, these people are not required to send in a one-month notice before the ceremony.

Explaining the objective and reason behind the legislation, the government had said in the Assembly that it was being introduced as the society had undergone many changes since the enactment of the previous bill due to which stringent and effective legislation was required to check forced religious conversions, which are on the rise in the state.

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