Karnataka Religious Structures (Protection) Bill, 2021: Caught between a rock and a hard place, the BJP tabled the Bill to avoid upsetting its core vote bank.
The Karnataka government on Tuesday tabled the Karnataka Religious Structures (Protection) Bill, 2021 in the state assembly. The Bill comes after the government’s move to demolish temples in the state was criticised heavily on social media, and the opposition made it a political issue. R Ashok, Karnataka Revenue Minister, today said that the government introduced the Bill to protect temples. “We have to protect institutions of all religions,” he said. However, Karnataka Congress leader NA Harris accused the ruling BJP of fooling people. He said that first they demolished temples and now they’re saying they’ll protect them. “They shouldn’t touch any religious structure. It’s being done for the vote bank. Everything can’t be made legal. They should’ve had a discussion first,” said Harris.
BJP National General Secretary CT Ravi said that the decision is a welcome move. “We would have avoided some issues if it was introduced earlier… Congress is doing drama over the issue,” he said. Karnataka Religious Structures (Protection) Bill, 2021 aims to protect religious structures constructed illegally in a public place.
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The Bill comes after the authorities in Karnataka started demolishing old temples in Nanjangud following a court direction causing widespread outrage. It may be recalled that several leaders of VHP, Hindu Jagarana Vedike, and other organisations had protested against the BJP government in Mysuru opposing the demolition of Nanjangud temples. According to reports, there are over thousand illegal religious structures built at public places across the state. In fact, many Karnataka ministers had urged CM BS Bommai to issue an order prohibiting the demolition.
Caught between a rock and a hard place, the BJP tabled the Bill to avoid upsetting its core vote bank.
“It is considered necessary to provide for the protection of religious constructions on a public place constructed before the date of commencement of this Act, in order to protect communal harmony and not to hurt the religious sentiments of the public. Further to restrict unauthorised religious structure and constructions on public places in future,” reads the statement of objects and reasons of the Bill.
The bill also seeks to define local authorities as well as public places. It defined local authority as the local self Government constituted by the State Government under relevant Laws and includes all the Government-owned, managed or controlled, statutory Boards, Corporations, companies, committees etc, reported Live Law.
It defines Public Place as a place belonging to the Government and includes any premises belonging to a Local Authority, or of a Government company.
The Bill defines religious structures as those structures such as temple, church, mosque, Gurudwara, Bodh Vihar, Majar etc, constructed in a public place without authority of law.
“Notwithstanding anything contained in any law for the time being in force or any judgment, decree or order of any court, tribunal or authority from the date of commencement of this Act, subject to the provisions of this Act, or the rules made there under the Government shall protect the religious structures existing on the date of commencement of this Act, in such manner subject to such conditions as may be prescribed. Provided that no protection shall be done, if any case relating to the removal is pending in any court of law and in such other circumstances as may be prescribed,” says the Bill.
The bill also bars the construction of new religious structures in a public place going forward.