Dehradun, August 10: Uttarakhand has made its Anti-Conversion law more stringent from Wednesday as CM Rawat has approved certain amendments in the Uttarakhand Freedom of Religion Act 2018.
Announcing the changes in the law, finance minister Prakash Pant announced the changes and said that under the new amendments, any institution found involved in religious conversion will face cancellation of registration and the onus to prove their innocence will also be upon them.
“The anti-conversion law which had come into effect in April in the state had stipulated that “forced or fraudulent conversions done through force or allurement” were a non-bailable offense that can be punished with imprisonment from one to five years,” Pant added.
Pant further said, “We are apprehensive that this provision that has been introduced can be used to indulge in a witch-hunt against targeted communities or organizations.” If a person wanted to convert for marriage, he or she will have to give an affidavit to the district magistrate one month before the wedding to clarify that the conversion is not a “forceful” one.
Moreover, as per the law, one requires government clearance for a religious conversion to be accepted. In case the person did not submit the affidavit in the DM’s office, the conversion would be regarded illegal, according to the law.
The state government had enacted the law after the Uttarakhand high court had in November last year asked the state to frame a ‘Freedom of Religion Act’ on the lines of the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 1968 as well as Himachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 2006, saying that “it has come to our notice that the conversion from one religion to another is often a conversion only to facilitate the process of marriage.”
Uttarakhand is the seventh state after Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh and Jharkhand to have passed an anti-conversion law.