Anti-conversion Bill clears K’taka Legislative Council test amid Cong walkout

The ruling BJP in Karnataka had the last laugh on Thursday as the controversial anti-conversion Bill got smooth passage in the Legislative Council amid a walkout by principal opposition Congress party.

The Protection of Right to Freedom of Religion Bill 2021 was tabled by home minister Araga Jnanendra and passed by voice vote after prolonged debate. The opposition Congress party which has been vociferously opposing the Bill, walked out of the Council ahead of the voice vote.

Although the controversial Bill had earlier been cleared by the Legislative Assembly in December 2021, the ruling BJP opted for the Ordinance route in May this year, as it did not have the numbers to steer it through the 75-member Legislative Council. However, with the BJP enjoying a majority in the Upper House after the Council elections in July this year, it decided to table the contentious Bill on Thursday.

Karnataka’s version of the Bill is seen as more stringent than in other BJP-ruled states like Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. Home minister Araga Jnanendra said conversions are becoming rampant through unfair means.

The Bill aims to protect one’s 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 includes provisions for compensation of up to Rs 5 lakh to be paid by the accused to those who were forced to convert. In cases of mass conversion, punishment ranges from 3-10 year imprisonment and a fine of up to Rs one lakh.

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