Updated: December 24, 2021 8:35:00 am
THE KARNATAKA Right to Freedom of Religion Bill, 2021, commonly known as the anti-conversion Bill, was passed by voice vote in the legislative Assembly on Thursday amid strong opposition from the Congress party. The Bill will now be debated by the legislative Council. If passed, Karnataka will become the ninth state to have such a legislation.
The debate on the controversial Bill on Thursday saw several twists and turns after the BJP claimed that a draft of the current Bill was actually framed by the Congress when it was in power between 2013 and 2018 – a charge denied by the opposition party.
Former chief minister and Congress Legislature Party leader Siddaramaiah said the Bill was part of the hidden agenda of the RSS while Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai said the agenda of the RSS is an open secret.
Siddaramaiah began the debate, saying the Bill was unconstitutional and unnecessary since there is a provision under the Indian Penal Code to book cases against forcible conversion. He was referring to IPC 295 (a), which states, “Deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs.”
State Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister J C Madhuswamy said the state Law Commission had recommended a legislation on the issue and that the Congress government under Siddaramaiah had cleared it for Cabinet discussion in 2016 but it was never taken up. After Siddaramaiah sought the documents related to the matter, Speaker Vishweshwar Hegde Kageri adjourned the House for more than 20 minutes.
When proceedings resumed, Siddaramaiah acknowledged he had signed a document to place a draft Bill before the Cabinet but asserted that it never came before the Cabinet. He later produced a petition submitted on November 5, 2009 to the then chief minister B S Yediyurappa by RSS-backed activists and writers, seeking an anti-conversion law, to emphasis that the Bill was part of the RSS agenda.
He said the Bill was a product of the BJP government from 2009. Yediyurappa, who was in power in 2009, intervened and admitted that a petition was received during his time and that the BJP was always interested in introducing the law. “After going through the Bills of other states, we are passing it here, whether Congress accepts or opposes it,” he said.
Opposition JD(S) leader H D Revanna alleged that the anti-conversion Bill was being tabled through an “understanding” between the Congress and BJP.
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