Anti-Conversion Bill Tabled In Karnataka Assembly: 7 Takeaways

The controversial bill, aimed to stop 'unlawful conversion', makes the process of conversion highly cumbersome and lengthy for those who wish to do so.

Karnataka saw the new and highly controversial anti-conversion bill being tabled in its state assembly on Tuesday, amid widespread opposition from the Congress party, after it was cleared by the state cabinet a day earlier.

The bill, titled 'The Karnataka Protection of Right to Freedom of Religion Bill, 2021', is aimed at stopped "unlawful conversion" - and proposes a maximum punishment of 10 years of imprisonment for carrying out 'mass conversion' or the unlawful conversion of "minor or a person of unsound mind or a woman or a person belonging to the Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe".

Also Read: Maharashtra's 'Revengeful' Monkeys Killed 250 Pups? Forest Officer Refutes Claim

Here are the seven top takeaways from the proposed bill:

1. Prohibiting 'Unlawful Conversion', According To The Bill

Section 3 of the bill attempts at defining what constitutes of 'unlawful conversion' that it aims to prohibit. It states the following:

"No person shall convert or attempt to convert, either directly or otherwise, any other person from one religion to another by use or practice of misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, allurement or by any fraudulent means or by any of these means or by promise of marriage, nor shall any person abet or conspire such conversion."

Section 3 also mentions in cases of reconversion - wherein a person reconverts to his immediate previous religion - the provision in under this Act will not apply.

2. Who Can Lodge A Complaint?

The act allows anyone who has converted, or anyone who knows any person who has gone through conversion, to file a complaint.

This includes parents, siblings, any person related by blood, marriage or adoption, or in any form associated, or even a colleague.

3. What Are The Punishments For 'Unlawful Conversions'?

Under the proposed bill, whoever is found guilty of carrying out an 'unlawful conversion', as defined in Section 3, will face a jail term for three to five years, and shall also be liable to pay a fine of ₹25,000.

In case of an 'unlawful conversion' of a "minor or a person of unsound mind or a woman or a person belonging to the Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe," the person found guilty will face a jail term of three years, which could be extended to ten years, and shall also be liable to pay a fine of ₹50,000.

In case of mass conversion the conversion of two or more people, which is deemed as unlawful, the accused will face a jail term of three to ten years, along with a fine of ₹1,00,000.

A 'repeat offender' - who has been previously convicted under this act - will face a minimum jail term of five years, and shall also be liable to pay a fine of ₹2,00,000

The Court can also grant an 'appropriate compensation', to be paid by the accused to the victim, an amount that can extend up to ₹5,00,000, in addition to the fine.

The parties to offence, as per the proposed bill, are "every person who actually does the act which constitutes the offence", and those who "aids or abets" in the offence.

Also Read: Anti-Conversion Laws: How The States Regulate Love And Faith

4. What Happens To Marriages With Conversions Deemed As 'Unlawful'?

The bill also mentions that marriages that have been carried out with the sole purpose of unlawful conversion, or forced conversion done for the purpose of marriage, shall be declared null and void under this Act.

On this matter, it states the following:

"Any marriage which has happened with sole purpose of unlawful conversion or vice-versa by the man of one religion with the woman of another religion, either by converting himself before or after marriage or by converting the woman before or after marriage, shall be declared as null and void by the Family Court or where the Family Court is not established, the Court having jurisdiction to try such case on a petition presented by either party thereto against the other party of the marriage."

Those who wish to convert for the purpose of marriage, will have to abide by the provisions of section 8 and 9 for the marriage to be solemnised.

5. Conversion Under New Act: What To Do Before Converting?

Those who wish to convert will have to provide a declaration (in Form-I), with 30 days notice, to the District Magistrate (DM), or the Additional DM specially authorized by the DM for this purpose, in the residing district of place of birth within the state of the applicant.

The person performing the religious conversion of the person who wishes to convert, will also be required to provide 30 days advance notice (in Form-II) to the DM, or the Additional DM assigned by the DM for this purpose, in the district where the conversion will be carried out.

Following this, the DM shall notify about the proposed conversion on the notice board of the office of DM and Tahsildar, and invite objections to the conversion.

In case of objections, an inquiry could be ordered by the DM. It will be conducted by officials of Revenue or Social Welfare Department, to check 'genuine intention, purpose and cause of the proposed conversion.'

Following the inquiry, if the DM concludes that the conversion contravenes the provisions of Section 3, the police will be asked to initiate criminal action against the offender.

If there is no objection provided, or the inquiry deems the conversion as lawful under Section 3, then the conversion can take place.

6. What To Do After Converting?

After getting clearance from the DM's office, once the conversion has taken place, the person converting will once again have to send a declaration to the DM (Form-III), within 30 days of the conversion ceremony.

The declaration should contain a copy of the Aadhaar card, or any other identification document, along with the personal details such as date of birth, permanent address, present place of recidence, father's or husband's name, previous and current religion, data and place of conversion, and the 'nature of process gone through for the conversion'.

The converted individual then has to appear before the DM 21 days after sending in the declaration (Form-III), to establish his/her identity, and confirm the contents of the declaration.

Furthermore, if any objections are received within 30 days from the conversion, the DM can initiate another inquiry "conducted through officials of Revenue or Social Welfare Department with regard to genuine intention, purpose and cause of the conversion."

If the DM concludes, following the inquiry, that an offence has been committed with regards to Section 3, then the authorities will be asked to initiate criminal action against the accused.

If no objections are received during this time, the DM shall "record the factum of declaration and confirmation in a register maintained for this purpose". An official notification will also be issued, with 'concerned authority' being intimated about such conversion.

Concerned authority has been defined as "employer, officials of the revenue department, social welfare department, backward classes welfare department, minority welfare department and other concerned department, urban and rural local bodies, Principals or Head Masters of the Educational Institutions, etc."

Also Read: SC Issues Notice On Anti-Conversion laws; UP, Uttarakhand To Reply

7. Burden Of Proof On The Accused

In the case of objections raised to a conversion, according to the proposed bill it is on the accused to prove that the conversion was lawful, and not forced.

On this matter, the bill states the following:

"The burden of proof as to whether a religious conversion was not effected through misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, allurement or by any fraudulent means or by marriage, lies on the person who has caused the conversion and on the abettor who aids or abets such conversion."

Updated On: 2021-12-23T11:24:27+05:30
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