The anti-conversion Bill, called the Karnataka Protection of Right to Freedom of Religion Bill, 2021, will be taken up for discussion on Wednesday.

Karnataka CM Basavaraj Bommai and a BJP protest in the backdrop
news Controversy Tuesday, December 21, 2021 - 16:33

The contentious anti-conversion Bill, called the Karnataka Protection of Right to Freedom of Religion Bill, 2021, was tabled by Home Minister Araga Jnanendra in the Karnataka Assembly on Tuesday, December 21. The Bill was cleared by the Karnataka Cabinet on Monday. The Assembly Speaker Vishweshwar Hegde Kageri has said that the Bill will be taken up for discussion on Wednesday, before conducting a voice vote in the Assembly. Arguments broke out between Opposition leaders and ministers in the Assembly after the Bill was tabled. 

The Leader of Opposition, Siddaramaiah, opposed the Bill just after it was tabled, calling it illegal. He also asked why the Bill was tabled on Tuesday if the discussion was slated for Wednesday. The Speaker responded by saying that it was done to give the Opposition time to study it ahead of the discussion. 

Meanwhile, Law Minister JC Madhu Swamy said that it had been announced at a previously held  Business Advisory Committee meeting that the Karnataka Protection of Right to Freedom of Religion Bill, 2021, would be tabled. Siddaramaiah denied this and alleged that this particular Bill was not named at any point. Siddaramaiah accused the government of sneaking the Bill in and of having malafide intention. 

State Congress chief DK Shivakumar said that the Congress party will oppose the Bill outright in the Assembly. “It's against the Constitution and seeks to destroy harmony and create communal tension. It'll lead to a dip in investment in Karnataka,” he said.

Revenue Minister R Ashoka said that the Bill does not name any religion and insisted that the government will ensure passage of the Bill. Siddaramaiah further alleged that the Bill was against Articles 21 and 25 of the Constitution. 

The proposed Bill, that is being opposed by opposition parties and Christian community leaders, is said to have penal provisions, and may also insist that the persons who wish to convert to another faith submit a declaration before the Deputy Commissioner two months prior.

Read: 10 yr jail, lengthy process to change religion: Karnataka’s draft anti-conversion Bill

Also, the person who wishes to convert is likely to lose the facilities and benefits attached to their former religion, including reservations, when they convert. However, one is likely to receive the benefits entitled to, in the religion he or she converts to, Home Minister Araga Jnanendra had earlier said.

According to the draft of the Bill that was made public, the Karnataka government is mulling a maximum punishment of 10 years under its anti-conversion Bill, penalising people who convert or try to convert others by ‘fraudulent means’ or by marriage. It has proposed imprisonment of three to five years with a fine of Rs 25,000. For violation of provisions with respect to minors, women, SC/ST, the person will face imprisonment of three to ten years and a fine of not less than Rs 50,000.

The proposed Bill is also said to have made a provision for the accused to pay up to Rs 5 lakh as compensation to those who they converted. Further, a three to ten years jail term and a fine of up to Rs 1 lakh has been proposed for cases of mass conversion. 

Previously, Siddaramaiah had said that the Congress will not allow the BJP government to pass an anti-conversion Bill in the Karnataka Assembly, and JD(S) has also said that it is opposed to the Bill.