Shimla Dec 21
Himachal Pradesh Governor Bandaru Datatrya gave assent to Himachal Pradesh Religious Fredom Act which was passed in state legislative assembly last year to act against ‘forced conversion’ .
In a notification issued on Dec 18 by the Guv of Himachal Pradesh assent was given to Himachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 2019. The bill was brought by Jai Ram Thakur Government in the assembly last year as Himachal Pradesh High Court had declared some provisions of similar anti-conversion act passed in the state assembly in 2006. The new legislation provides more stringent section against conversion by force, inducement or through marriages solemnised for the “sole purpose” of adopting a new religion. Violation provision of new legislation dictat punishment of seven years jail for violators. After Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, HP Government notified this act last Friday. The states and district administration could now book violators for forcible or fraudulent religious conversion that provides for imprisonment of up to 10 years and a maximum fine of Rs 50,000 under different categories.
Several other BJP-ruled states are mulling such laws which party leaders say are aimed at fighting ‘love jihad’, a term used by them for the alleged tricking of Hindu women into converting to Islam for marriage.
The bill was passed in the Himachal Pradesh Assembly on August 30 last year and had received the governor’s assent. However, it took over 15 months for the home department to issue the notification for its implementation.
There is a provision of stringent punishment of up to seven years in jail in the Act as compared to the three years under the old Himachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 2006, which was on similar lines but one provision of old act was strike down by the Himachal Pradesh High court stating that it was ultra -vire to the constitution and religious freedom.
It is interesting that HP Freedom of Religion Act 2006 was brought by Virbhadra Singh Government which was challenged by minority communities NGOs and it’s main provisions were Strike down by the Himachal Pradesh High Court.
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