Anti-conversion Bill leaves wide scope for legal action

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Anti-conversion Bill leaves wide scope for legal action

Person who wants to convert has to declare intent at least 30 days in advance to the district magistrate or the additional district magistrate

Bringing several stringent provisions, the Karnataka Protection of Right to Freedom of Religion Bill, 2021, which was introduced in the Legislative Assembly on Tuesday, provides scope for inquiry to be conducted if any objection is received over a proposed conversion, both prior to or after the person has converted.

While the person desiring to convert is mandated to declare at least 30 days in advance to the district magistrate or the additional district magistrate, the proposed conversion will be notified on the notice board of the office of the district magistrate and in the tahsildar’s office calling for objections. A similar advance notice has to be given by the religious converter performing the conversion ceremony. The person also has to declare the place of conversion.

Any converted person, parents, brother, sister or any other person related to him by blood, marriage or adoption or in any form associated or colleague can lodge a complaint of conversion from one religion to another by misrepresentation, force, fraud, undue influence, coercion, allurement or by promise of marriage.

If any objection is received within 30 days, an inquiry will be conducted through officials of Revenue or Social Welfare department with regard to genuine intention, purpose, and cause of the proposed conversion. If the conversion is in contravention of the proposed law, criminal action can be initiated.

Similar inquiry provision is part of the Bill if an objection is received post conversion as the person is mandated to declare before the district magistrate or the additional district magistrate. The district magistrate should record the name and particulars of objectors and nature of objection, and get an inquiry conducted on intention, purpose, and cause of conversion. The conversion can be declared illegal and void if the provisions of the proposed law are contravened. Only if objections are not received for conversion, the district magistrate will declare and confirm in a register maintained for the purpose and issue an official notification.

The Bill also states that any institution which violates provisions of the law is liable for punishment and withdrawal of government grants.

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