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Karnataka Assembly Passes Bill to Improve Restrictions on Religious Conversions & Inter – Faith Marriages

Team SoOLEGAL 25 Dec 2021 1:09pm

Karnataka Assembly Passes Bill to Improve Restrictions on Religious Conversions & Inter – Faith Marriages

The Karnataka Legislative Assembly passed the Karnataka Protection of Right to Freedom of Religious Bill, 2021, on Thursday, which attempts to limit religious conversions and inter – faith weddings. Despite heavy resistance from Congress and JD, the measure was passed by voice vote (S). The law was tabled on Tuesday by the ruling BJP Administration.

Religious conversion that is not done in accordance with law is referred to as “illegal conversion”. The bill defines unlawful conversion through allurement as any offer of any temptation, whether in the form of a gift, gratification, easy money, or material benefit in cash or kind employment, free education in a reputed school run by any religious body; or promise to marry; or better lifestyle, divine displeasure or otherwise.

The bill forbids ‘unlawful conversion’ from one faith/religion to another via misinterpretation, force undue influence, coercion, allurement or by another fraudulent means or marriage.’

Furthermore, the bill defines ‘conversion’ as ‘renouncing one’s own faith and accepting another’, if it is done via deception, force, undue influence, compulsion, allurement or any other fraudulent methods or through marriage. However, if a person reverts to his or her immediate former faith, this is not considered a conversion under this rule.

Importantly, the proposed law placed the ‘Burden of Proof’ about legitimate conversion on the individual who induced the conversion and on any person who assisted such conversion.

Curbs on inter – faith marriages
According to the bill, any marriage performed only for the purpose of unlawful conversion or vice versa by a man of one religion with a woman of another faith, whether by converting himself before or after marriage or converting the woman before or after marriage, shall be ruled void.

A specific protocol must be followed in order for conversion to be approved. It is also stated that a declaration before conversion and pre – report about conversion must be given in a prescribed form to the District Magistrate or the Additional District Magistrate at least sixty days in advance by a person who wishes to convert his religion freely and without any force, coercion, undue influence or allurement.

It should be noted that the Gujarat High Court recently weakened similar requirements in the Gujarat anti – conversion statute by stating that the rules do not apply to parties entering inter – faith marriage on voluntary consent.

The High Court stated unequivocally that the Gujarat statute ‘interferes with the subtleties of marriage, including the right to an individual’s choice, so breaching Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.’

Petitions have been filed in High Courts contesting similar legislation enacted in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh as infringing on the basic right to personal liberty and privacy.

Procedure for conversion
The religious converter who performs a conversion ceremony for converting any individual of one religion to another religion should provide the District Magistrate or any other officer not below the level of Additional District Magistrate one month’s prior notice in Form – ll of such conversion.

Any violation of any of the requirements shall declare the proposed conversion unlawful and invalid. Individuals who violate the laws face imprisonment as well as a fine.

The measure also specifies a procedure to be followed after conversion. The violation of the stipulated requirements renders the claimed conversion unlawful and invalid.

If any institution is found to have violated any of the provisions, the person or persons in charge of the affairs of the organization or institution, as the case may be, shall be punished as provided in section – 5, and the registration of such organization or institution under any law currently in force may be cancelled by the competent authority upon a reference made in this regard by the District Magistrate. The State Government shall not give any financial assistance or grant to any institution or organization that violates the terms of this Act.

The statement of goals and reasons alludes to the Supreme Court’s decision in Rev Stanislaus V. State of Madhya Pradesh and Orissa (1977) 1 SCC 677, which found that the freedom to disseminate under Article – 25 does not include the right to convert another person.

It further states that in recent years, the state has observed several cases of conversion by allurement, coercive force, false tactics, and mass conversion. The Government stated that such incidents create ‘disturbances to public order’ and that legislation was required.

Punishment

The legislation states that, “whoever, contravenes the provision of Section – 3 shall, without prejudice to any civil liability, be punished with imprisonment for a term, which shall not be less than three years but which may extend to five years and shall also be liable to fine which shall not be less than Rupees twenty – five thousand.”

Any aggrieved individuals, his parents, brother, sister or any other person connected to him by blood, marriage or adoption may file a First Information Report of such conversion under the proposed legislation. In the case of mass conversion, the perpetrator shall be sentenced to imprisonment for a time of not less than three years but not less than 10 years, as well as fine of not less than One Lakh Rupees.



Tagged: Karnataka Assembly Passes Bill   Faith Marriages   Karnataka Protection   Right to Freedom   Religious Bill   Article 21  
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