Opposition Congress MLAs stormed the well of the House in protest, but the Speaker accepted a voice vote to pass the controversial Bill.

Karnataka anti conversion Bill passed: CM Bommai in the Assembly
news Law Thursday, December 23, 2021 - 17:25

The Karnataka Assembly passed the controversial anti-conversion Bill, aimed at penalising 'forced' conversions, through a voice vote on Thursday, December 23. Opposition party Congress opposed the Bill, and when the Bill was passed, many MLAs stormed the well of the Assembly.

Congress partly vehemently opposed the Bill, calling it "anti people," "inhuman," "anticonstitutional," "anti-poor" and "draconian," and urged that it should not be passed for any reason and should be withdrawn by the government. JD(S) too expressed its opposition to the Bill. The Bill was passed by a voice vote, even as Congress members were protesting from the well of the House, demanding continuation of the debate on the Bill, that began on Thursday morning.

The Karnataka Protection of Right to Freedom of Religion Bill, 2021 was tabled in the Assembly on Tuesday, December 21 and was discussed through the day on Thursday, December 23. The Bill, modeled along the lines of similar laws in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat, prohibits “unlawful conversions” from one religion to another by misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, allurement or by any fraudulent means. 

The BJP during the Assembly discussion said that the Karnataka Protection of Right to Freedom of Religion Bill, 2021', popularly known as the anti-conversion Bill, is a mere extension of the draft proposal prepared by the Congress back in 2016, prompting a protest from Congress MLAs. 

Minister for Home, Araga Jnanedra in his opening remarks on the Bill said that the anti-conversion bill is the "brainchild" of the Congress. Karnataka Minister for Law J Madhuswamy added that the draft was prepared by the Law Commission as per the directions of the then Chief Minister Siddaramaiah. Former Karnataka Minister Siddaramaiah shot back, saying that the draft prepared in 2016 is completely different from the current Bill the state government has introduced, and that it never went past the Cabinet. 

The Bill, also opposed by Christian community leaders, provides for 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. It proposes penal provisions, and insists that those who wish to convert to another faith should file a declaration before the District Magistrate in a prescribed format at least 30 days in advance to the District Magistrate.

Also read: In 10 points: Karnataka’s anti-conversion Bill more stringent than Uttar Pradesh law

Also, the religious converter who performs the conversion needs to give 30 days advance notice in a format, to the District Magistrate or the Additional District Magistrate. The person who wishes to convert will lose the religion of his or her origin and facilities or benefits attached with it, including reservations; however, one is likely to receive the benefits entitled to, in the religion he or she converts to, Home Minister Araga Jnanendra, who piloted the bill, said. According to Jnanendra, eight states have passed or were implementing such a law, and Karnataka would become the ninth one.

Watch TNM's discussion on the anti-conversion Bill: BJP spokesperson Vaman Acharya, and BT Venkatesh, the Founder of ReachLawyer which is a network of human rights lawyers, in conversation with TNM's Dhanya Rajendran and Sanyukta Dharmadhikari: