The BJP Government in Jharkhand on Tuesday cleared the draft Anti-Conversion Bill that bans the religious conversion through coercion and has penal provisions. As per an Indian Express report, the provisions in the Religious Freedom Bill 2017 carries up to three years imprisonment and/or fine of Rs 50,000 if anyone is found guilty of converting people by force.
“Section 3 of the Bill provides for punitive action…. If the person being converted is a minor girl belonging to the Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe community, the punishment will go up from three years to four years, and the fine from Rs 50,000 to Rs 1 lakh (either or both),” an official was quoted as saying by the daily. The Bill will be brought up in the state Assembly later this month in the Monsoon season.
The act as and when becomes a law may increase confrontation between the ruling party and its allied organisations on one hand and the church on the othe. Both sides have been at loggerheads since the proposed amendments in the act were introduced through a Bill in 2016. The Jharkhand government had to reconsider it after the state Governor returned it without giving his assent.
That time, the BJP had alleged that the Church was the reason behind protests in the state, which, the party claimed, was creating a negative atmosphere on the proposed changes.
The Church had appealed to the Governor against proposed amendments. As per the draft law, people who convert willingly are required to inform the district administration with details like time, place and reason for converting to other religion, among others. In case anybody fails to so, the person will be liable to face action.
Other states, where such a law have already been imposed are Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. BJP has demanded Anti-Conversion Bill on a number of occasions. “Forces out to disintegrate the society are indulging in conversions for long. It is good that the Bill envisages tougher punishment for those involved,” BJP state spokesperson Pratul Shahdev was quoted as saying by Indian Express on Tuesday.