Madhya Pradesh governor approves ordinance to regulate inter-faith marriages

According to the ordinance, reconversion to embrace one’s “ancestral religion” will not be considered a crime
MP Governor Anandiben Patel.(HT archive)
MP Governor Anandiben Patel.(HT archive)
Updated on Jan 07, 2021 03:08 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, Bhopal | By

Governor Anandiben Patel on Thursday signed an ordinance for its promulgation to regulate inter-faith marriages in Madhya Pradesh. The ordinance provides for two to 10- year imprisonment and a fine up to Rs50,000 for anyone found guilty of “forcing women, minors, and people from Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes to undergo religious conversion”.

According to the ordinance, reconversion to embrace one’s “ancestral religion” will not be considered a crime, as per the official.

An official said Patel has signed the drafts of all the 12 ordinances that the state cabinet approved and sent for her consent and promulgation on December 29. The ordinances were issued as the state assembly’s winter session was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. They include the one that provides for life imprisonment for those found guilty of adulteration of food and drugs.

Also read | Supreme Court to examine laws against unlawful conversion in UP, Uttarakhand

The Madhya Pradesh Dharmik Swatantrata (Freedom of Religion) Ordinance defines ancestral religion as that of a person’s father at the time of birth. It replaces the 1968 Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act and prohibits conversion and attempts on conversion done through “misrepresentation, allurement, threat, force, undue influence, coercion marriage, and any fraudulent means”. “Conspiracy and abetment to religious conversion have been prohibited too...,” says the ordinance.

It provides for annulment of inter-faith marriages solemnised by “misrepresentation, allurement, threat, coercion, undue influence, and fraud”. The ordinance seeks to provide parental property rights to children born out of such marriages and maintenance to the woman and children.

The cases registered under the ordinance are cognisable and non-bailable and sessions courts are authorised to hear them.

The ordinance has a provision for punishing organisations, which organise such conversions. A person embracing another religion voluntarily and the priest getting it done will have to inform the district magistrate at least 60 days prior to the scheduled date of conversion.

Over two dozen Muslim men have been arrested in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh since a similar ordinance was enacted there last month. Other Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled states like Haryana, Karnataka and Assam are planning to bring in similar anti-conversion laws that critics say are vague and being used to target inter-faith couples.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Ranjan Srivastava leads HT’s coverage from Bhopal. He has spent more than two decades in journalism in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, covering political and other affairs. For the past 16 years, he has been working in Madhya Pradesh.

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Friday, January 28, 2022