The Karnataka government on Friday notified its law that prohibits religious conversions using misrepresentation, force, fraud, allurement or marriage, but allows reconversions.
First promulgated as an ordinance, the law was passed as the Karnataka Protection of Freedom of Religion Act 2022 in the recent monsoon session of the state legislature despite protests from Opposition parties and minority groups.
“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,” as per the Act.
However, an exemption is provided in the case of a person who “reconverts to his immediate previous religion” as “the same shall not be deemed to be a conversion under this Act”.
Conversion will now be a cognisable and non-bailable offence. Complaints about conversions can be filed by family members or anyone related to the individual getting converted. A jail term of three-five years and a fine of Rs 25,000 are the punishments for those converting people from the general category. In the case of minorities, women or scheduled caste and scheduled tribe people, the law provides for a jail term of three-ten years and a fine of Rs 50,000. The punishment will double for repeat offenders.
The law also provides for victims of forcible conversion to be paid Rs 5-lakh compensation (on court orders) by those attempting the conversion.
Marriages conducted with the intention of conversion can be declared null and void by a family court or a jurisdictional court.
Anyone intending to convert to another religion will have to notify the district magistrate two months in advance.
Those carrying out the conversion must give one month’s notice, and the district magistrate should inquire into their real purpose through police.
The legislation was tabled during the winter session of the legislature in December 2021.