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Explained: What does Karnataka’s contentious anti-conversion Bill propose?

The Karnataka legislative Assembly has passed The Karnataka Right to Freedom of Religion Bill, 2021, commonly referred to as the anti-conversion Bill. What does the Bill propose?

Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai speaks in the state legislative Assembly during the Winter Session. (Twitter/@CMofKarnataka)

The Karnataka legislative Assembly Thursday passed The Karnataka Right to Freedom of Religion Bill, 2021, commonly referred to as the anti-conversion Bill, amid Opposition protests. It prohibits conversion from one religion to another by misrepresentation, force, fraud, allurement or marriage. The Bill will now go to the Karnataka Legislative Council.

The Bill states, “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, however, provides an exemption 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”.

According to the proposed legislation, complaints regarding conversions can be filed by family members or any other person who is related to the individual who is getting converted. A jail term of three to five years and a fine of Rs 25,000 has been proposed for those 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 has been mooted for those converting minors, women or persons from SC/ST communities.

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The Bill also envisages payment of a compensation of Rs 5 lakh (on court orders) to victims of conversion by the persons attempting the conversion, and double punishment for repeat offences. Marriages conducted with the intention of conversion can be declared null and void by a family court or a jurisdictional court. The offence of conversion has been deemed to be a cognizable and non-bailable, that can be tried in a magistrate’s court under the proposed law.

Any person intending to convert to another religion after the law comes into force will have to notify the district magistrate two months in advance. The person who is carrying out the conversion must provide one month notice, and the district magistrate must conduct an enquiry through the police on the real purpose of the conversion, says the draft Bill.

Not informing the authorities will result in a prison term of six months to three years for persons who convert, and a term of one to five years for those carrying out conversions.

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The Bill also requires the person who gets converted to inform the district magistrate of the conversion within 30 days, and he/she must appear before the district magistrate to confirm their identity. Not informing the district magistrate will lead to the conversion being declared null and void.

Once the conversion is confirmed, the district magistrate will inform the revenue authorities, social welfare, minority, backward classes and other departments of the conversion, who will, in turn, take steps with respect to the entitlements that the person may receive in terms of reservations and other benefits.

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First published on: 23-12-2021 at 12:20 IST
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