Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said on Monday that an ordinance to ban dubious inter-faith marriages would be brought on Tuesday after a discussion in a cabinet meeting.
Chouhan’s statement came when journalists asked him whether the government would bring an ordinance on the inter-faith marriages after the state assembly’s winter session was postponed.
“The state government will bring the Freedom of Religion ordinance on Tuesday,” Chouhan said.
The government could not table the bill – the Madhya Pradesh Dharmik Swatantrata (Freedom of Religion) Bill, 2020 – on such marriages called “Love jihad” in the state assembly’s winter session as the three-day session scheduled to be held from Monday was postponed due to prevailing Covid-19 situation after an all-party meeting chaired by the protem speaker Rameshwar Sharma on Sunday evening.
Though the CM did not elaborate on the ordinance, it is likely to have all the provisions of the bills, officials said.
Governor Anandiben Patel reached Bhopal on Monday and is expected to sign the ordinance, according to officials.
Notably, the bill approved by the state cabinet on Saturday provides for up to 10 years in jail for “forcing women, minors, and people from Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes to undergo religious conversion” with a special clause on no punitive action against those returning to their original religion.
As per the bill, the marriages solemnised in violation of the law would be deemed null and void and re-conversion to the ancestral religion would not be treated as a conversion and punishable offence.
“Love jihad” is an imaginary the right-wing conspiracy theory that Muslim men seduce Hindu women and lure them into marriage with an intention to convert them to Islam.
The proposed legislation was supposed to replace the 1968 Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, according to Madhya Pradesh home minister Narottam Mishra who briefed journalists after the cabinet meeting on Saturday.
According to Mishra, the bill was different from the Uttar Pradesh government’s legislation promulgated through an ordinance on November 25. Unlike the MP bill, the UP ordinance does not provide for parental property rights to children of an interfaith marriage, monthly maintenance and a fine of Rs 50,000 for an inter-religion union without permission of the district magistrate. In UP, the fine amount is Rs 25,000.