Himachal bill against conversion by marriage
The BJP government in Himachal Pradesh on Thursday introduced in the Assembly a bill against conversion by force or inducement and through marriages solemnised for the “sole purpose” of adopting a new religion.
Any marriage for the sole purpose of conversion will be declared null and void under Section 5 of the bill.
The bill seeks to replace the Himachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 2006, which bans conversion by force, inducement or fraud. It proposes stiffer punishments — up to seven years in jail, compared to three years under the existing law.
A government statement said effective legislation was required to check forced conversions, which were “on the rise” in the state.
The Himachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Bill, 2019, introduced by chief minister Jai Ram Thakur, will be taken up for discussion on Friday.
Anyone seeking to convert will need to give a month’s notice to the district magistrate, a provision that figured in the 2006 law as well and was challenged in court.
The priest who performs the conversion ceremony will also have to give a notice at least a month in advance.
Those reconverting to their “parent religion” are exempt from this provision.
Section 10 states that no person or organisation violating the bill’s provisions will be allowed to accept donation or contribution of any kind from within or outside the country.