Bengaluru, December 24: In a major development, the Karnataka Legislative Assembly passed the "Karnataka Protection of Right to Freedom of Religion Bill, 2021", popularly known as the "Anti-conversion Bill" amid uproar and protest by the opposition.
As soon as the Karnataka Legislative Assembly began discussing the contentious "anti-conversion bill", Congress raised protests and called it “draconian and anti-constitution”. However, BJP pointed out that proposed legislation was "initiated" by the Siddaramaiah-led Congress administration, and placed documents to support its claim before the House.
The Karnataka law minister today targeted Siddaramaiah and said, “It was during the Siddaramaiah regime in 2013 when the law department had prepared this bill on anti-conversion and the same has been taken forward. The bill just didn’t reach the Assembly back then. The law ministry in 2013 during the Siddaramaiah regime prepared a draft of this bill. The same bill with slight changes is being proposed by us.”
Though Siddaramaiah, who is now the Leader of Opposition denied it, later on personally going through the records in the Speaker's office, accepted that as the CM he had then only asked the draft bill in this regard to be placed before the cabinet and no decision was taken in this connection, and hence it cannot be seen or projected as the intention of his government.
Siddramaiah then agreed on the floor that he had signed a document allowing the draft of an anti-conversion bill. However, the Cabinet never took up the matter or took it forward, he claimed.
The "Karnataka Protection of Right to Freedom of Religion Bill, 2021", provides for the protection of the right to freedom of religion and prohibition of unlawful conversion from one religion to another by misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, allurement, or by any fraudulent means. The bill proposes imprisonment from three to five years with a fine of Rs 25,000, while for violation of provisions with respect to minors, women, SC/ST, offenders will face imprisonment from three to 10 years and a fine of not less than Rs 50,000.
The bill also makes provisions for the accused to pay up to Rs five lakh as compensation to those who were made to convert, and with regards to cases of mass conversion, the bill proposes 3-10 years jail term and a fine of up to Rs one lakh. It also states that any marriage which has happened for the sole purpose of unlawful conversion or vice-versa by the man of one religion with the woman of another religion, either by converting himself before or after marriage or by converting the woman before or after marriage, shall be declared as null and void by the family court.