An anti-conversion bill proposed by the BJP government in Karnataka to prevent forced religious conversion of persons from Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe communities, minors and women, to another religion has proposed a maximum punishment of 10 years of imprisonment. The Bill named the Karnataka Protection of Right to Freedom of Religion Bill 2021 has faced a strong opposition from the Congress. The bill has a provision of a jail term of three year to five years, and a fine of Rs 25,000 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.
The ruling BJP wants to introduce the bill in the upcoming winter session of the Karnataka assembly and is holding a series of meetings to do away with any loopholes. The state government had held a series of meetings in the last few days to examine the validity of the proposed legislation. The government has also taken help of senior advocates over the terminologies used in the bill. Karnataka Home Minister Araga Jnanendra told the Deccan Herald that the the bill allows conversions but those converting to other religions will have to inform local authorities/deputy commissioner who will look into every case whether the conversion was voluntary or done under any pressure. He informed that ‘Love Jihad’ will also be covered in the bill.
If the conversion is not informed to the authorities, then a prison term of six months to three years for persons who are converted and one year to five years for the persons carrying out the conversions have been proposed in the draft bill.
The draft bill proposed to prohibit ‘conversion from one religion to another by misrepresentation, force, fraud, undue influence, coercion, allurement or marriage’. “No person shall 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,” it says.
According to Indian Express, Jnanendra yesterday held a meeting with the state law and parliamentary affairs minister J C Madhuswamy to give final touch to the proposed new law. The draft bill has been discussed during a meeting of the state chief secretary, the home secretary and the secretary for parliamentary affairs and law. Quoting an official aware of the drafting process of the bill, the IE reported that the government had taken into consideration the existing conversion law enacted by different states and it had also looked ino the judgments that have been delivered when these laws have been challenged.
The bill also proposed a compensation of Rs five lakh (on court orders) to victims of conversion by the persons attempting the conversion and double punishments for repeat offenses. The Opposition parties including the Congress and the JDS have been opposed to the bill.