After Madhya Pradesh & Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat passes the anti-conversion law against ‘Love Jihad’. The Amendment to the Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act, 2003, was passed by the Gujarat assembly on Thursday. The amendment aims to bring severe punishment against forced conversions through marriages. The amendment will award a strict 10-year-imprisonment to the guilty.
On Thursday, Pradeepsinh Jadeja, Minister of State for Gujarat said that interfaith marriages that take place by “trickery” will not fall under the category of fundamental right of an adult couple where “people want to spread Islam through religious conversions using marriages”.
While introducing the amendment to the Bill, Mr. Jadeja said that while some intellectuals argue that it is a fundamental right of an adult girl as to whom she can marry, the books of faith such as Ramcharitmanas and Quran both state that one should not break anyone’s trust. Thus, marriage that is done with trickery to fulfill a greater purpose is similar to breaking trust. “This government firmly believes that trickery cannot exist with fundamental right. Marriage done by hiding name is trickery,” Mr. Jadeja added.
Jadeja further alleged that, “I say it clearly that people doing such activity are those who deprived us from the darshan of Lord Ram for centuries, who tried to damage the country from within through cross border terrorism, who took lives of our soldiers through terrorist acts… who did blasts in Mumbai in 1992, who launched attacks on country’s Parliament… who tried to defame Indian government by opposing Citizenship Amendment Act, who have aligned with the tukde-tukde gang,” said Jadeja.
The amendment to the Freedom to Religion Bill will prohibit all religious conversions and punish those who indulge in the acts by promising a spouse a better lifestyle or divine blessing. Whoever found guilty of breaking the law will be awarded a jail term of 5-years with Rs. 2 lakhs as penalty. In the case of a minor girl being converted, the punishment is even more stringent: a 7-year imprisonment and Rs. 3 lakh penalty. If a person is found guilty of religious conversion of women belonging from Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe, he shall be slapped with a 7-year imprisonment.
Additionally, the law will impose an equally stringent punishment to religious conversions that operate on an institutional level. The punishment for an organization found guilty in forceful conversion or conversion made under impersonation, will be 10-years of imprisonment and a fine of Rs. 5 lakhs being imposed on each organization member. Moreover, the organization in question will also be discredited by the government to receive any grants.
The marriages that are alleged to have taken place through forceful conversion will also be considered void by the state’s family courts. According to the bill, the complaint can be filed by the victim of the act or a person who was asked to be converted, or any of that person’s blood relative. The investigation will be headed by a police official no lower than the rank of Deputy Superintendent of police (DSP).
Moreover, the bill suggests that the burden of proof will be on the accused. The law clearly states, “The burden of proof as to whether a religious conversion was not effected through misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, allurement or by any fraudulent means or by marriage shall lie on the person who has caused the conversion and where such conversion has been facilitated by any person by act, omission, aid, abetment or counselling, on such other person.”
The rumblings of such an amendment being introduced came last month when Gujarat CM Vijay Rupani had announced that the state government was on its way to bringing a law against ‘Love Jihad’. “We are going to bring a law against ‘love jihad’ in the assembly. Such activities being done in the name of ‘love jihad’ will not be tolerated…The BJP government will bring strict laws against love jihad in the coming days,” the Gujarat CM had said.