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Karnataka Assembly passes anti-conversion bill, replacing ordinance

The government had promulgated an ordinance on May 17 this year to give effect to the bill as it was pending for passage in the upper house due to lack of numbers with the ruling BJP.

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Bengaluru: Seeking to replace the ordinance, Karnataka Legislative Assembly on Wednesday passed the anti-conversion bill amid ruckus and walkout by the opposition.

Home Minister Araga Jnanendra moved the bill for its reconsideration and passage. 

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The government had promulgated an ordinance on May 17 this year to give effect to the bill as it was pending for passage in the upper house due to lack of numbers with the ruling BJP.

The bill was finally passed by the council on September 15 after the ruling BJP gained majority in the house by its members winning a series of council elections. 

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

However, Congress Deputy Leader in the Assembly UT Khader said the bill is politically motivated, illegal and is unconstitutional. It will be challenged in the court of law and it may repeal it, he added.

Congress MLA Shivanand Patil argued that some provisions under the bill can be misused to harass a person who wants to convert. “The bill provides for the blood relative of the person who has been converted to file a complaint. This gives an opportunity to misuse the bill to harass a person who wants to convert,” he said.

Jananendra rubbished the allegations by saying that the bill cannot be misused and is not against religious freedom. He also said the bill was brought in after studying various such legislations in eight states.

The offence under this bill is non-bailable and cognisable.

The bill proposes 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 converter who performs the conversion shall give 30 days advance notice in a format, to the District Magistrate or the Additional District Magistrate.

According to the bill, the person who wishes to convert will lose the religion of his or her origin and facilities or benefits attached with it, including reservations; however, one is likely to receive the benefits entitled to, in the religion, he or she converts to.

The bill proposes to give protection of 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 an 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 ten 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 to 10 year jail term and a fine of up to Rs one 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.

Wherever the family court is not established, the court having jurisdiction can try such a case, on a petition presented by either party thereto against the other party of the marriage. 

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