Congress leader Bhupinder Singh Hooda, who is the leader of the opposition, said existing laws already provide penalties for forced conversions and a new law is not needed.
BJP-ruled Haryana has become the third state in the country to pass a bill aimed at preventing the conversion of religion through violent means or seduction. The Haryana Assembly passed the bill on March 22 amid protests from the opposition benches which saw Congress stage an assembly strike against the bill. The bill, tabled in the Assembly on March 4, places the burden of proof on the accused. While BJP-ruled Himachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh have already made forced religious conversion a punishable offence, Karnataka is also preparing to introduce a similar bill in the Assembly.
Why an anti-conversion bill in Haryana?
BJP leaders across the state have alleged incidents of “Love-Jihad” and forced religious conversion. Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar told the assembly that his government has no problem if someone converts by choice but he opposes conversions done using lure , force or threat. Sharing data, Khattar said 127 FIRs have been registered following complaints of forced religious conversion in six districts in four years. Most of these complaints concerned the districts of Yamunanagar, Panipat, Gurugram, Palwal and Faridabad. The chief minister said the bill aims to “sow fear” among those who commit the crime of forced conversions.
Congress leader Bhupinder Singh Hooda, who is the leader of the opposition, said existing laws already provide penalties for forced conversions and a new law is not needed. He also asked the BJP leaders to push the law through parliament first. However, Hooda made it clear that Congress did not support forced conversions.
What are the provisions of the bill?
According to the Prevention of Unlawful Conversion of Religion in Haryana Bill 2022, if the conversion is done by lure, use of force, coercion or fraudulent means including use of the digital mode, a term of imprisonment of one to five years and a term of imprisonment are provided. fine of at least Rs 1 lakh.
It also makes concealing religion for marriage a punishable offence, thus aiming to prevent ‘Love Jihad’. Anyone who conceals their religion with the intention of getting married will be punished with imprisonment for at least three years, up to 10 years, and will be liable to a fine of at least Rs 3 lakh.
Mass conversion will be punished by imprisonment for at least five years, up to 10 years and will also be punishable by a fine of at least Rs 4 lakh. The bill further provides for a term of imprisonment of 4 to 10 years and a fine of at least Rs 3 lakh for anyone who converts or attempts to convert a minor, a woman or a person belonging to SC or ST using force, threat, undue influence, coercion or enticement. . It also makes any offense committed under this Act liable to knowledge, not liable to bail and liable to trial in session court.
As per the Prevention of Unlawful Conversion of Religion in Haryana Bill 2022, luring means and includes any act of offering temptation in the form of a gift, gratuity or material benefits in cash, kind or employment, education in a school run by any religious body, better hygiene of life, divine pleasure or promise thereof.