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Religious freedom Bill returned

Finding it not in conformity with the concept of freedom of religion as embodied in Article 25 (1) of the Constitution, Governor Nawal Kishore Sharma has returned the Gujarat Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Bill, 2006

| Gandhinagar |
August 1, 2007 12:46:17 am

Finding it not in conformity with the concept of freedom of religion as embodied in Article 25 (1) of the Constitution, Governor Nawal Kishore Sharma has returned the Gujarat Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Bill, 2006. The Bill was passed by the State Assembly during the Monsoon session in September last year.

The Governor has held that Jainism and Buddhism are recognised as religions rather than denominations of Hinduism, something that the Amendment Bill sought to convey.

The Amendment Bill—to make changes in the Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act, 2003, enacted by the Modi Government—would have excluded conversions between Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism from the purview of strict provisions of the 2003 Act, which required prior permissions from district administration for carrying out religious conversions.

In elaborating the meaning of a convert, the Amendment Bill showed Buddhism and Jainism as denominations of Hindu religion, as Shias and Sunnis are of Islam, or Catholics and Protestants are for Christianity. The Governor has found this objectionable, and asked the State Assembly to reconsider the change.

A press release issued by Raj Bhawan here on Tuesday, said “the proposed amendment would amount to withdrawing the protection against forceful or inappropriate religious conversions, particularly in case of Jains and Buddhists”.

The release cites large scale protests from different religious and social organisations, especially from the Jain and Christian communities, in indicating toward the unacceptability of the proposed amendment.

Delegations that met Sharma following the passage of the Bill last year, took particular objection to the inclusion of Jainism as a “sect” of Hinduism. The seemingly innocuous change had attracted widespread protests with the All India Digambar Jain Dharam Sanrakshini Sabha first to protest against amalgamation of their religion into the Hindu fold.

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