The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is still examining the controversial anti-conversion Bill passed by the Chhattisgarh Assembly in 2006. The Dharma Swatantraya Adhiniyam Act, 2006, brought by BJP’s Raman Singh government in the state says the return of a person to his ancestor’s religion or own original religion shall not be construed as “conversion.”
The Bill also says that a district magistrate will have to be intimated 30 days prior to the conversion and he will be the final authority on the subject.
When the Bill was passed by the state Assembly in 2006, it drew sharp criticism from the opposition parties and several Christian bodies, which opposed it saying organisation involved in philanthropic activities will be deliberately targeted by the state government.
Former Chhattisgarh governors Lieutenant General Krishna Mohan Seth and ESL Narsimhan had refused to give an assent to the Bill. Narsimhan’s successor Shekhar Dutt, also appointed by the then UPA government, kept it hanging for three years after taking charge in 2010.
The Bill was finally sent by Chhattisgarh Governor’s office to the MHA for consultation. Officials said they were still awaiting response from Women and Child Development Ministry,ministries of culture, tribal affairs, minority affairs and law on the subject.
“The MHA is still examining the provisions of the Bill to check if it is at all in contravention with the Centre’s stand on it. We are legally examining it. However, considering that there has been a change of government at the Centre, the Bill could get clearance,” said a senior MHA official on condition of anonymity.
The previous UPA government had kept the Bill hanging and took no decision over it. The Bill says that anybody found guilty of contravening the district magistrate’s decision is liable to imprisonment for up to three years and a fine of up to Rs 20,000. It also says that violation of the provisions is a cognizable offence.
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Return of a person to one’s ancestor’s religion or own original religion shall not be construed as ‘conversion’.
DM will be the final authority on the subject and anybody guilty of contravening the DM’s decision is liable to imprisonment for up to 3 years.