The Madhya Pradesh government will follow two other BJP-led states, Uttar Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh, by passing an anti-conversion law that prohibits religious conversion only for the purpose of marriage. The state cabinet adopted the 2020 Religious Freedom Bill as an ordinance. Although a common characteristic of the three laws is the declaration of “null and void” of said marriages and the penalization of conversions made without prior approval from the state, they differ in the amount of the prescribed penalty and in the distribution of the load. proof that a conversion is lawful. Furthermore, the MP law aims to protect the rights of women in such marriages.
- Note: Prosecution law requires a 60-day “declaration of intent to convert” before the district judge for the conversion to be valid, after which a pair of different beliefs can legally marry. Uttar Pradesh’s 2020 Illegal Religion Conversion Order, enacted in November, also requires a 60-day notice, but also requires the magistrate to conduct a police investigation to determine the true intent behind the conversion. The Himachal Pradesh Religious Freedom Act of 2019, which came into effect last week, requires a 30-day “declaration of intent to convert.”
- Who can investigate: section 4 of the Law on the Prosecutor’s Office states that a police officer may not carry out any investigation, except on the written complaint of the converted person or her parents / siblings. Guardians of the converted person can only file a complaint with the permission of a court. The Public Ministry Law also stipulates that no police officer below the rank of sub-inspector may investigate a crime under the law. The Himachal Law says that lawsuits cannot be brought without prior sanction from an officer who is not below the rank of subdivision magistrate. The UP law allows the same people authorized by the MP law to file a complaint.
- Burden of proof: The MP law places the burden of proving on the converted person that the conversion was carried out without duress or illegality. The Himachal Law has a similar provision. The UP Law goes further by placing this burden of proof on the people who “caused” or “facilitated” the conversion and not on the individual. Even in the framework of the police investigation, if the magistrate is not satisfied, criminal action can be brought under article 11 of the ordinance against the persons who “caused” the conversion. This includes those who committed the crime; he did not act and avoid the crime; and people aided, incited, advised or recruited to commit the crime.
- Maintenance and inheritance: by declaring “null and void” any marriage in which the husband or wife has become, even consensual, unless they have previously notified the state government, the new parliamentary law at the same time to the rights of the wife and her child from the marriage “null and void.” By virtue of article 9, the woman whose marriage has been declared null and void by virtue of this legislation, as well as her children, are entitled to alimony. However, the law does not provide a remedy to ensure that the marriage can be subsequently protected. Neither the UP nor the Himachal Law have such provisions.
- Fine amount: The crime of illegal conversion under the laws of the tri-state is recognizable and unsecured, which means that an arrest can be made without a warrant and bail is only granted at the discretion of the judge. Under the law of public prosecution, a person can be sentenced to between one and five years in prison for converting or attempting to convert illegally. If the person converted is a woman, a minor, or a person belonging to a recognized caste or tribe (SC / ST), the sentence is two to ten years. It also provides for a prison term of three to ten years for concealment of religion during marriage. The UP law establishes a minimum penalty of one year, which can be extended up to five years, and repeat offenses can result in twice the maximum penalty. Men receive a harsher penalty if they are found guilty of causing the conversion of a woman, minor or person belonging to a SC / TS, in which case the sentence is between two and ten years. Under Himachal law, a person can be sentenced to between one and five years in prison for converting or attempting to convert illegally. If the person converted is a woman, a minor or a person belonging to a SC / ST, the penalty is two to seven years.
- Previous Laws: At least 10 states, including MP and Himachal Pradesh, already have laws against conversion. The main difference between the new laws is that they aim to criminalize conversions for the sole purpose of getting married. The impeachment order repeals Madhya Pradesh’s 1968 law on religious freedom. While this also criminalizes forced conversion, the new law adds provisions on conversion during marriage, maintenance rights, and transfer of the burden of proof by imposing it on the accused. Himachal passed its law in 2019, repealing the Himachal Pradesh Religious Freedom Law of 2006. While the 2019 law added provisions regarding conversions for matrimonial purposes, there was also the aspect of prior declaration before the district magistrate. in the 2006 law. In fact, the Superior Court had annulled the prior notification provisions as unconstitutional and in violation of the fundamental right to privacy. In 2019, a report from the UP State Law Commission recommended a special law to address incidents of forced conversion. In a bill, introduced with the report, the Commission recommended criminalizing fraudulent conversions, including conversions for the sole purpose of marriage. Then the ordinance was enacted.