The Gujarat government has notified the Gujarat Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Bill 2021 with effect from June 15 to curb the menace of forced religious conversion in the state. The Bill was passed in the state assembly on June 1 and got Governor Acharya Devavrat’s nod in May, which is now a law in the state.
The development comes in the wake of the rising number of Grooming Jihad cases being reported from different parts of the country and on the heels of a similar law passed by the state of Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. According to the law passed by the Gujarat government, if anybody is found guilty of forced conversion, they will be punished with four to seven years of imprisonment. The law also has a provision of strict punishment to those who are found complicit in the conversion through marriage.
Forcing religious conversion by luring them or by pretending to be in love/relationship by hiding religious identity is now illegal.
Provisions of the Gujarat Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Bill 2021
As per the provisions of the law, marriage just for the sake of conversion or conversion just for the sake of marriage will be deemed illegal by the Family Court or the Court. The law prohibits people directly or otherwise to coerce or deceive one to get married or help in getting married for the sake of conversion.
Additionally, the burden of proof to prove one’s guilt will be on the accused, accuser, and those who have abetted in the purported crime. The law also holds everyone—who commits the crime, abets in committing the crime, advises in committing a crime—equally guilty of committing the crime. Those who are found to be guilty of breaching these provisions will be sentenced to jail for 3 to 5 years and a fine of at least Rs 2 lakhs. In the case of women belonging to Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe, there is a provision of 4 to 7 years of jail and a fine of Rs 3 lakhs.
Furthermore, the organisations who do not abide by these provisions will have their registrations cancelled and those found guilty will be sentenced to 3 to 10 years of imprisonment and asked to pay a fine of Rs 5 lakhs. Such organisations will also be stripped of any state grants or financial aid since the day of filing the charge sheet.
The provisions of the Bill make Grooming Jihad a non-bailable and cognisable offence and will not be probed by officers below the rank of Superintendent of Police.