The Madhya Pradesh Government has passed the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 2021 which aims to provide freedom of religion by prohibiting unlawful religious conversions.
Does the Act disallow all religious conversions?
No. The Act disallows religious conversions done using:
- Misrepresentation or fraud – Making false or untrue statements to influence another person. For example, X tells Y that by converting to X’s religion, they will live for a hundred years.
- Allurement – Tempting a person to convert by offering them a gift, material benefit, cash, education in a school run by a religious organisation, employment, divine pleasure, etc. For example, X offers an expensive car to Y in return for converting to X’s religion.
- Threat, force or coercion – Forcing someone to convert against their will, or threatening to injure their family or property if they do not convert. For example, X threatens that Y will be socially isolated by all their neighbours if Y does not convert to X’s religion.
- Undue influence – Convincing a person to convert by unfairly using personal power or influence over them. For example, X misuses a relationship of trust with their parents and convinces them to change their religion.
- Marriage – For example, X refuses to marry Y unless they convert to X’s religion.
No person should convert or try to convert another person using these methods. It is a crime to even help someone in doing such conversions.
What if someone changes their religion due to such unlawful methods?
Any religious conversion or marriage done by using such unlawful methods is not legally valid.
What are the punishments for unlawful religious conversion?
|Unlawful religious conversion
||Jail time for one to five years, and a minimum fine of Rupees twenty-five thousand
|Unlawful religious conversion of a:
- Minor (under eighteen years)
- Member of a Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe
|Jail time for two to ten years, and a minimum fine of Rupees fifty thousand
|Misleading the person, you wish to marry about which religion you practise (applicable for inter-religious couples)
||Jail time for three to ten years, and a minimum fine of Rupees fifty thousand
|Mass religious conversion of more than two people using unlawful methods
||Jail time for five to ten years, and a minimum fine of Rupees one lakh
|A religious priest or anyone else organising a religious conversion without informing the District Magistrate sixty days in advance
||Jail time for three to five years, and a minimum fine of Rupees fifty thousand
What if someone wants to change their religion?
Anyone who wants to convert to another religion should submit a declaration to the District Magistrate saying that they voluntarily wish to convert, and that there is no involvement of unlawful methods. They should submit the declaration sixty days before the conversion.