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Monday, January 30, 2023

Karnataka anti-conversion bill likely to okayed by state council

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Bengaluru: government is all set to pass the anti-conversion bill for the state without hurdles from the Opposition during the monsoon session of the state legislature which began here on Monday.

Until the last legislature session, the ruling party did not table the bill in the Upper House due to lack of numbers.

As of now, the BJP has 41 members in the 75-member Upper House, compared to Congress and JDS, which have 26 and JDS 8 members, respectively. Therefore, the ruling party is ina position to pass the bill without obstacles from the Opposition. Prior to this, the combined Opposition – the Congress and JDS – had 41 members and the BJP 32 until July.

The state assembly has passed the anti-conversion bill, named Karnataka Right to Freedom of Religion Bill 2021, which was introduced in December 2021. In May 2022, Governor Thawarchand Gehlot gave nod to an ordinance to facilitate the introduction of anti-conversion law on account of the delay in passage of the bill.

The bill was brought about after MLAs, cutting across party lines, had raised concern about conversions in the state.

Goolihatti Shekhar, the BJP MLA, had raised the issue in the assembly alleging that as many as 20,000 Hindus including his mother were converted to Christianity in his constituency. He also had alleged that it was a continuous process and the Chritian missionaries lodged false cases against those who tried to restrain conversions in the constituency.

The Opposition had opposed the bill tooth and nail, alleging that the bill intends to target religions of minority communities. Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai refuted the fears by saying that the proposed law is intended to prevent the abuse of vulnerable sections of society and that it was not intended to target any religion.

As per the bill, those who wish to convert to another religion have to file an application before the Deputy Commissioner, giving two month’s prior notice.

The bill also mentions that attempts to woo a person from another religion by degrading his or her religion can attract a penalty, and is considered an offence.

It further mentions, “No person will convert or attempt to convert either directly or otherwise any other person from one religion to another by use of misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, allurement or by any fraudulent means or by marriage, nor shall any person abet or conspire for conversions.”

“A jail term of three years to five years, and a fine of Rs 25,000, have been proposed for people violating the law in the case of people from general categories, and a jail term of three to 10 years, and a fine of Rs 50,000 for people converting minors, women, and persons from the SC and ST communities,: mentions the bill.

In the case of marriages, where religious conversions have taken place for the convenience of marriage, the marriage will have legal recognition only if the conversion was brought to the notice of a district magistrate 30 days in advance of the conversion and 30 days after conversion, it says.

The United Christian Forum and Peoples Union for Civil Liberties, have collated data that suggested that as many as 39 incidents of attacks on Christian churches and prayer halls were reported.

Cases were filed in some of the cases against the Christian groups under IPC sections for promoting enmity between religious groups and outraging religious feelings.

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