The Himachal Pradesh Assembly has passed the Himachal
Pradesh Freedom of Religion Bill, 2019. The Bill seeks to repeal the Himachal
Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 2006.
The aims to check forced religious conversions.
It prohibits conversion by misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion,
inducement, marriage or any fraudulent means. The bill says that any marriage
for the sole purpose of conversion will also be declared null and void under
Section 5 of the bill.
It proposes stringent punishments -up to seven
years in jail compared to the three years under the existing law.
As per the Bill, anyone seeking to convert will
need to give a month’s notice to the district magistrate, stating that the
person is converting on his/her own. The priest who performs conversion ceremony
will also give a month’s notice in advance. However, this condition would not
apply to those reconverting to their parent religion.
The bill further states that no person or
organisation violating the provisions will be allowed to accept any donation or
contribution of any kind from within or outside the country.