Chief Minister Siddaramaiah-led Karnataka government today decided to repeal the anti-conversion law that was introduced by the previous BJP government. Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and his cabinet approved the idea, and it would probably be brought into force soon.
The Karnataka Legislative Assembly passed the bill in December 2021 with the intent of protecting religious freedom and outlawing forcible conversion from one religion to another through deception, coercion, undue influence, coercion, allurement, or any other fraudulent means.
The government then took the decision to introduce a bill to carry out the measure. On May 17, 2022, Karnataka Governor Thawarchand Gehlot approved the ordinance. The Assembly was then bound to approve it within six months, after which it would no longer be in force.
The contentious anti-conversion measure was approved by the Basavaraj Bommai-led BJP government in September 2022, despite being opposed by the Congress and JD(S). In order to put the bill into force while it was still pending in the Legislative Council, where the BJP, which was in power at the time, lacked a majority, the government promulgated an ordinance in May.
Araga Jnanendra, the state’s home minister at the time, highlighted that religious conversions had increased recently and claimed that large-scale conversions had occurred under pressure and by force, disrupting the peace and creating animosity between followers of various religions. According to Jnanendra, the measure does not restrict anyone’s right to practise their chosen religion, but they must do so free from pressure and enticement.
What does anti-conversion law say?
No one shall use or practise misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, allurement, or by any other fraudulent means, nor shall anyone aid or abet such conversion, whether directly or indirectly, nor shall anyone attempt such conversion with respect to any other person. With the exception that returning to one’s immediate previous religion will not be deemed a conversion for the purposes of this Act.
Without affecting any civil prejudice, anyone who violates section 3 is subject to a fine of Rs 25,000 as well as imprisonment of three years in jail, which can be extended to five years.
If the conversion involved a minor, a person of unsound mind, a woman, or an individual of a Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe, the offender would face a minimum sentence of three years in jail and a maximum of ten years in prison, as well as a fine of Rs 50,000.
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