New Delhi: The Himachal Pradesh Assembly on Friday passed a bill against religious conversion, with support from the opposition. The Himachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Bill, 2019, was passed unanimously with a voice vote.

The bill, which was introduced by Chief Minister Jairam Thakur on Thursday, seeks to replace the Himachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 2006. It provides imprisonment for up to seven years for forced religious conversions as against three in the previous Act.

Speaking about the bill, Chief Minister Thakur said that a stringent law was needed as forced conversions were on the rise, especially in the Rampur and Kinnaur districts.

The Himachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Bill, 2019 prohibits religious conversions by acts like misrepresentation, undue influence, coercion, marriage or any other fraudulent means. Section 5 of the bill will declare null and void, any marriage which has been carried out for the sole purpose of conversion.

Further, anyone who seeks to convert will have to notify the district magistrate (DM) a month in advance, stating that the individual is converting on his own. The priest carrying out the conversion, too, will have to do the same thing. However, this is not applicable to those reconverting to their original religion.

Those converting Dalits, women or minors will face a jail term of between two-seven years. Also, according to Section 10 of the bill, those violating its provisions will not be allowed to accept any donation from within or outside the country.

The bill will become an act following assent by the Governor.