Ordinance Summary

The Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Ordinance, 2020

  • The Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Ordinance, 2020 was promulgated on January 7, 2021.  The Ordinance specifies the procedure for undergoing religious conversion and prohibits unlawful religious conversion.  The Ordinance repeals the Madhya Pradesh Dharma Swatantra Adhiniyam, 1968, which previously regulated religious conversions in the state.
  • Procedure for religious conversion:  The Ordinance requires: (i) individuals seeking to convert, and (ii) religious priests (performing the conversion) and persons organising a religious conversion to declare the proposed conversion to the District Magistrate (DM) 60 days in advance.  Violating this procedure will attract punishment of imprisonment between three and five years, and a fine of at least Rs 50,000.
  • Causing religious conversion:  The Ordinance prohibits conversion of religion through: (i) coercion, force, misrepresentation, undue influence, and allurement, or (ii) fraud, or (iii) marriage.  It also prohibits a person from abetting, and conspiring to such conversions.  A conversion by any of these means will be deemed null and void.  However, an individual reconverting to his/ her parental religion will not be deemed as conversion.  Parental religion is the religion to which the individual’s father belonged to, at the time of the individual’s birth.
  • Marriages involving religious conversion: A marriage involving religious conversion will be declared null and void: (i) if it was done with an intent to convert a person, and (ii) if the conversion took place through any of the above prohibited means.
  • Complaints against coerced conversion: Under the Ordinance, a police complaint against unlawful religious conversion can be lodged by: (i) the victim of such conversion, (ii) his/ her parents or siblings, or (iii) any other person related by blood, marriage or adoption, and guardianship or custodianship with the leave of the court.  The power to investigate such complaints lies with a police officer of the rank of Sub-Inspector and above.
  • Right to inheritance and maintenance: A child born out of a marriage involving unlawful religious conversion shall be deemed legitimate.  Such children will have the right to property of only the father and as per the law governing inheritance of the father.  Further, the Ordinance provides for maintenance to be given to: (i) a woman whose marriage is deemed unlawful under the Ordinance, and (ii) her children born out of such a marriage.
  • Punishment for causing unlawful conversion:  The Ordinance provides for punishment for causing or facilitating unlawful religious conversion, as specified in Table 1.  Further, each repeat offence will attract a punishment of a fine, and imprisonment between five and 10 years.  All offences under the Ordinance are cognisable, non-bailable, and triable by a Session Court.  The Ordinance also provides for the Session Court to try an accused person, at the same trial, for other offences that the person may be charged with under the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973.

Table 1: Punishment for unlawful conversions

Type of offence

Term of imprisonment

Fine amount

Offence by individuals

Mass conversion (conversion of more than two persons)

5-10 years

Rs 1,00,000 or more

Concealment of religion professed, for the purpose of marriage

3-10 years

Rs 50,000 or more

Conversion of a minor, woman, or person belonging to SC or ST

2-10 years

Rs 50,000 or more

Any other conversion

1-5 years

Rs 25,000 or more

Offence by organisations

Type of Offence


If any of the above offences are committed by an organisation

The competent authority may cancel the registration of such organisation

  • Burden of proof of conversion:  The Ordinance assigns the burden of proof of the lawfulness of a religious conversion on the person accused of causing unlawful conversion.


DISCLAIMER: This document is being furnished to you for your information.  You may choose to reproduce or redistribute this report for non-commercial purposes in part or in full to any other person with due acknowledgement of PRS Legislative Research (“PRS”).  The opinions expressed herein are entirely those of the author(s).  PRS makes every effort to use reliable and comprehensive information, but PRS does not represent that the contents of the report are accurate or complete.  PRS is an independent, not-for-profit group.  This document has been prepared without regard to the objectives or opinions of those who may receive it.