Gujarat Freedom of Religion Amendment Act-2021 to come into force from June 15, 2021

Gandhinagar: Chief Minister Vijay Rupani here today decided to implement ‘Gujarat Dharma Swatantrya Sudhara Adhiniyam-2021 (the Gujarat Freedom of Religion Amendment Act-2021) from June 15, 2021.

It is an amendment to the Act, which was already in force since 2003, to basically ensure no person could convert another person from one religion to another by use of force or allurement. The important provision of the Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Act-2021 coming into force from June 15, 2021 are as follows:

  • The family court or other court with jurisdiction can declare the marriage formalized only for the sake of conversion of religion or vice versa as void.
  • No person can convert another person from one religion to another by use of force or allurement or by any fraudulent means, or help such marriage for conversion of religion,
  • The act places the burden of proof of innocence on the person who caused the conversion or on persons assisting such act.
  • The act holds all – who commits the crime, who forces another person to crime, who helps or advices another person to crime – equally guilty.
  • A person found guilty will be punished with minimum three years imprisonment which may be extended up to five years and a minimum fine of Rs two lakh.
  • And if in case of minor, woman or someone belonging to Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe the punishment is minimum four to seven years imprisonment and minimum fine of Rs three lakh.
  • The act provides that any aggrieved person, his parents, brother, sister or any other person related by blood, marriage or adoption can lodge an FIR against the person for an offence committed under the law.
  • The act provided cancellation of the registration of any organisation found violating the law, and minimum imprisonment of three years extendable up to ten years and a fine of up to Rs five lakh. Such organisation will cease to get any financial assistance or grant from the State Government from the date the chargesheet has been filed against the organisation.
  • The offences under this act shall be deemed non-bailable and cognizable offenses and shall not be probed by an officer below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police.

It is worth to note here that the following provisions were included in the important provisions of the Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act-2003.

Imprisonment for up to 3 years and a fine of up to Rs 50,000 for religious conversions by force or fraudulent means.

Imprisonment of up to 4 years and a fine of up to Rs one lakh for religious conversion by force or fraudulent means in relation to a minor, woman, Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe.

Prior permission required of the concerned District Magistrate for the person performing the ritual of religious conversion. District Magistrate shall permit / refuse within 1 month after investigation.

Imprisonment of up to one year or a fine of up to Rs.1000 or both in case the performer of rituals has not obtained the prior permission of the concerned District Magistrate.

Imprisonment up to one year or fine up to Rs.1000 or both, in case individual applying for religious conversion has not notified the District Magistrate within 10 days from the date of conversion.

No criminal proceedings may be instituted without the prior approval of the District Magistrate / Sub-Divisional Magistrate.

Offenses under this Act shall be deemed to be an offense under the Police Right and shall not be investigated by an officer below the rank of Police Inspector.

Thus Mr. Rupani has decided to implement the Gujarat Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Act-2021 from June 15, 2021 for matters like love-jihad activities in the state and cases of marriage for the sole purpose of religious conversion or religious conversion for the purpose of marriage.

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