On 9th January 2021, Anandiben Patel, honorable Governor of Madhya Pradesh publicized the Freedom of Religion ordinance 2020 in the gazette notification. On 26th December MP cabinet signed the draft of the ordinance which has many provisions like the ordinance passed by the Uttar Pradesh Government recently.
Offences committed under the issued ordinance have been made non-bailable, triable, and cognizable by session court under section 13 (1). The ordinance nullifies the Madhya Pradesh Dharma Swatantrya Adhiniyum, 1968, and rules made therein under section 17 (1).
Preamble, of the ordinance reads –
“An ordinance to provide freedom of religion by prohibiting conversion from one religion to another by misrepresentation, allurement, use of threat or force, undue influence, coercion, marriage or any fraudulent means and for the matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.”
Key provisions of ordinance
Section – 3 Forbidding of conversion from one religion to another
No one can convert or attempt to convert a person directly or indirectly by use of allurement, misrepresentation, use of threat or force, undue influence, coercion, marriage, or any fraudulent means nor can abet or conspire such conversion. If any converts of infringement of this ordinance found, then such conversion shall be deemed null and void. (Section 3)
Section – 4 Complaint against conversion
Under the ordinance until and unless a written complaint is filed the inquiry or investigation of infringement cannot be processed under section 3. The complaint can be filed by parents, siblings, or with the leave of the court, or by any other person related by blood, marriage, adoption guardianship, or custodianship. (Section 4)
Section – 5 Punishment for conversion of Section 3
The ordinance held that if any person infringes the provision under section 3 then that person will be imprisoned for a term of one year which may extend up to five years and shall be liable for the fine of Rs 25,000. The ordinance further stated that if the contravention of section 3 is against minors, women, or scheduled caste and scheduled tribe then the person can be imprisoned for a minimum of two years which may extend up to ten years, and shall be liable for Rs 50,000 as a fine. It also provides that whosoever intends to marry a person of any religion other than professed by him and hides his religion in such a manner that the other believes that his religion is truly the one professed by can be imprisoned for minimum 3 years which may extend up to ten years and shall be liable for Rs 50,000 fine.
Mass conversion – The ordinance observes that whosoever indulges in the mass conversion shall be imprisoned a minimum of five years which may extend up to ten years and shall be liable for a fine of Rs. 1,00,000. (Section 5)
Section 6 any marriage performed in contravention of section 3 shall be null and void. A petitioner to declare their marriage null and void must present any person mentioned under section 4. Such complaints must be presented in front of Family Court and where a Family Court is not present, the court having the jurisdiction of Family Court can proceed with the case. (Section 7)
Section 8 – Inheritance Right, any child born out of the marriage of contravention of section 3 shall be deemed to be legitimate. The succession to the property shall be regulated according to the law governing by inheritance of the Father.
Section 9 – Maintenance Right, the ordinance gives right of Maintenance to the women whose marriage declared as null and void under section 7 and her children born out of such marriage shall be entitled to maintenance.
Section 10 – Declaration before conversion of religion, one who desires to convert their religion willingly shall have to notify the District Magistrate 60 days in advance that such conversion is voluntary without any force, undue influence, coercion, and allurement. if someone fails to do so will be imprisoned for not less than three years which may extend to five years and with a fine of Rs. 50,000.
Section 11 – Punishment for violation of the Act by an institution or organization, if any institution violates the provisions of the ordinance shall be subject to punishment under section 5.
Section 12 – Burden of proof, the burden of proof as to whether a religious conversion was not affected through misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, etc.
Section 14 – Investigation, no person below the rank of Sub-inspector of Police shall investigate any filed case.