Basavaraj Bommai
Outgoing Karnataka CM Basavaraj Bommai. File photo

Karnataka takes ordinance route to implement anti-conversion law

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The Karnataka Cabinet on Thursday (May 12) decided to promulgate an ordinance to give effect to the contentious law against religious conversions.

The Karnataka Protection of Right to Freedom of Religion Bill was passed by the Legislative Assembly in December last year.

However, it is pending passage in the Legislative Council, where the ruling BJP is one short of a majority.

“We had passed the Karnataka Protection of Right to Freedom of Religion Bill (in the Legislative Assembly), due to certain reasons it was not passed in the Legislative Council. So the Cabinet today has decided to bring in an ordinance,” Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister J C Madhuswamy said.

Speaking to reporters after the Cabinet meeting, he said, “Whatever is passed by the Assembly will be in the ordinance… it will be introduced and passed in the council during the next session. When the House is not in session, we (govt) can go in for ordinance so we have taken that route.”

During the passage of the Bill in the Assembly, Home Minister Araga Jnanendra had said eight states have passed or were implementing such a law, and Karnataka would become the ninth one.

The Bill that was passed by the Legislative Assembly provides for the protection of the right to freedom of religion and prohibition of unlawful conversion from one religion to another by misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, allurement or by any fraudulent means.

It proposes imprisonment from three to five years with a fine of Rs 25,000, while for violation of provisions with respect to minors, women, SC/ST, the offenders will face imprisonment from three to 10 years and a fine of not less than Rs 50,000.

The Bill also makes provisions for the accused to pay up to Rs five lakh as compensation to those who were made to convert, and with regards to cases of mass conversion, there shall be a 3-10 year jail term and a fine of up to Rs 1 lakh.

It also states that any marriage which has happened for the sole purpose of unlawful conversion or vice-versa by the man of one religion with the woman of another, either by converting himself before or after marriage or by converting the woman before or after marriage, shall be declared as null and void by the family court.

The offence under this Bill is non-bailable and cognizable.

The Bill which was opposed by Christian community leaders among others, mandates that persons who wish to convert to another faith shall give a declaration in a prescribed format at least 30 days in advance to the District Magistrate or the Additional District Magistrate specially authorised by the District Magistrate in this regard of his residing district or place of birth within the state.

Also, the religious converter who performs the conversion shall give a 30-day advance notice in a format, to the District Magistrate or the Additional District Magistrate.

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