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HC govt tables Bill against conversion by force, through marriage

Press Trust of India  |  Shimla 

The Himachal Pradesh government 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.

The Bill seeks to repeal the Himachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 2006, which is on similar lines.

But the new Bill proposes stiffer punishments up to seven years in jail compared to the three years under the existing law.

A government statement said an effective legislation was required to check forced conversions which are "one 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 which figured in the 2006 law as well and was challenged in court.

Section 7 of the Bill says anyone wanting to convert will give a declaration on a prescribed format for at least a month in advance to the district magistrate, stating that he is converting on his own.

The priest who performs conversion ceremony will also give one-month notice in advance.

Those reconverting to their "parent religion" are exempted from this provision.

The Bill prohibits conversion by misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, inducement, marriage or any fraudulent means.

If the Bill is passed, anybody abetting or conspiring for such conversion will face imprisonment from a year to five years.

If Dalits, women or minors are made to convert, the jail term will be between two and seven years.

Any marriage for the sole purpose of conversion will also be declared null and void under Section 5 of the Bill.

Section 10 of the Bill states that no person or organisation violating the provisions will be allowed to accept any donation or contribution of any kind from within or outside the country.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Thu, August 29 2019. 21:40 IST