Religious leaders who appeal to their followers to vote for a political party or individual should be punished with a jail term of up to seven years, a private member's bill by INLD MP Dushyant Chautala has proposed. The MP from Sirsa in Haryana has recommended an amendment to the Religious Institutions (Prevention of Misuse) Act, 1988, restraining religious institutions from acting at the behest of political parties. No religious institution or manager or spiritual leader thereof shall issue any direction or appeal to any person or group of persons to vote or refrain from voting in any election in favour of any political party or any individual," the Indian National Lok Dal leader proposed in the bill. If any spiritual leader did so, he or she would be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to seven years, Chautala proposed in the Religious Institutions (Prevention of Misuse) Amendment Bill, 2015. The bill includes a provision for a fine of not less than Rs 1 lakh and up to Rs 10 lakh. The objective of the bill is to check the politicisation of religion, religious institutions and spiritual leaders, he said.
It also seeks to prevent the criminalisation of such institutions, Chautala added. Just as politicians should not enter into religious activities, religious leaders should not dabble in politics, he said. A private member's bill is legislation any MP can propose in his or her personal capacity. On most occasions, these bills are not enacted as they are not taken up by the government. The bill is likely to be taken up for consideration in the winter session of Parliament, he said.
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