“We are protecting our religion, we have introduced this bill to stop forced conversions. We have not restricted anyone’s freedom,” Karnataka Justice Minister JC Madhuswamy told the Legislative Assembly.
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According to agency reports citing sources, the opposition, led by Congress, will likely oppose the bill once introduced in the Legislative Council. However, given that the BJP has a majority in the Upper House, it is likely to pass. The bill, The Protection of the Right to Freedom of Religion Bill, 2021, will grant the right to freedom of religion and the prohibition of unlawful conversion from one religion to another by misrepresentation, force , undue influence, coercion, seduction or by any fraudulent means.
Conversion a non-bailable misdemeanor, imprisonment under Anti-Conversion Bill
The bill proposes a prison sentence of up to 10 years for forced religious conversions and makes forced conversions a non-bailable offense. “No one shall convert or attempt to convert, directly or otherwise, another person from one religion to another by the use or practice of force, undue influence, coercion, seduction or by any fraudulent means or by any other means or promise of marriage, and no one shall encourage or conspire with such conversion,” the bill says.
The Bill was passed in the Legislative Assembly in December 2021. However, it was not tabled in the Upper House as the BJP did not have a majority in the House. In May, with the election of seven MLCs, the BJP now has a majority in the Council and it has a better chance of being voted on in the Upper House.