What is the purpose of Karnataka’s anti-conversion Bill?

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admin December 24, 2021
Updated 2021/12/24 at 3:18 PM

The Karnataka Protection of Rights to Freedom of Religion Bill, 2021, was tabled by Home Minister Araga Jnanendra during the winter session of the Assembly in Belagavi on Tuesday, despite strong resistance. Forcible or induced conversions are subject to strict provisions in the bill. The government of Basavaraj Bommai seeks to make it illegal to convert by “misrepresentation, coercion, allurement, fraudulent methods, or marriage.”

What is the purpose of the Bill to Protect the Right to Religious Freedom?

Forcible conversion of individuals from Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe communities, minors, and women to another faith would carry a maximum punishment of ten years in jail, according to the bill. Misrepresentation, force, deception, allurement of marriage, coercion, and undue influence are all prohibited under the bill.

According to the proposed law, conversion complaints may be submitted by family members of a person who is being converted, by any other person who is linked to the person who is being converted, or by any other person affiliated with the person becoming converted.

Conversion is a cognizable and non-bailable offence that carries a sentence of three to five years in prison and a fine of ₹25,000 for those who break the law, and a sentence of three to ten years in prison and a fine of ₹50,000 for those who convert minors, women, or members of the SC and ST communities. Victims of forced conversions would be compensated with a sum of Rs. 5 lakh under the bill.

What about those who want to change to another faith voluntarily?

Anyone planning to change to another faith once the ordinance takes effect must notify the district magistrate at least thirty days in advance. The individual performing the conversion must also provide one month’s notice, after which the district magistrate will undertake an investigation via the police to determine the true purpose of the conversion. Persons who are converted face a jail sentence of six months to three years, while those who carry out the conversions face a sentence of one year to five years. After being converted, the individual must notify the district magistrate within 30 days of the conversion and appear before the magistrate to prove his or her identification. If the district magistrate is not notified, the conversion will be declared null and void.

Following the conversion, the district magistrate must notify the tax authorities, social welfare, minority, backward classes, and other agencies, who will then make efforts to protect the person’s rights to reservations and other benefits.

What is the total number of states that have passed the legislation?

Religious conversion is prohibited in Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh, and Uttarakhand. Breaching the statutes may result in penalties or incarceration, with sentences ranging from one to three years in jail and fines ranging from ₹5,000 to ₹50,000. If women, minors, or members of Scheduled Castes or Scheduled Tribes (SC/ST) are converted, several laws impose harsher punishments. Manipur, among other states, is said to be “considering similar legislation.”

The Orissa Freedom of Religion Act, 1967, was the first state to pass an anti-conversion law. The following year, Madhya Pradesh did the same.

How has Parliament dealt with anti-conversion laws?

Following independence, Parliament presented a number of anti-conversion laws, but they failed to pass due to a lack of majority support. In 1954, the first Indian Conversion (Regulation and Registration) Bill was established in post-independence India, with the goal of enforcing “missionary licensure and conversion registration with government authorities.” This measure was voted down. The Backward Communities (Religious Protection) Bill, introduced in 1960, “aimed at checking the conversion of Hindus to ‘non-Indian religions,’ which, according to the Bill’s definition, included Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism,” and the Freedom of Religion Bill, introduced in 1979, “sought official curbs on inter-religious conversion.”

These bills failed due to a lack of majority support.

According to research, anti-conversion legislation targeted Muslims aiming to convert non-Muslims in the 1980s, but Christianity has gotten its fair share of attention since the 1990s.

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