Karnataka government takes ordinance route to enforce anti-conversion bill
The government of Karnataka promulgated an ordinance to give effect to the anti-conversion bill on Thursday. The ordinance was approved by the Cabinet after the Assembly and Council were prorogued. In December 2021, the Karnataka Assembly had enacted the Karnataka Protection of Religious Freedom Bill. However, it couldn't be passed in the Council where the Bharatiya Janata Party doesn't enjoy the majority.
- In December 2021, the Karnataka Legislative Assembly had passed the Protection of Right to Freedom of Religion Bill.
- However, it was stuck in the Legislative Council, where the ruling BJP is one vote short of a majority.
- As per CM Basavaraj Bommai, the proposal was placed to promulgate an ordinance in the Cabinet as the Assembly and Council got prorogued.
The ordinance would be called the Protection of Right to Freedom of Religion Bill. "Without any amendments, whatever was passed in the Assembly will be made as an ordinance," said Law Minister JC Madhu Swamy. "In the near future, we are not looking at an Assembly session again. It doesn't have to go to the Assembly, it'll be sent to the Council," he added.
Meanwhile, the Opposition questioned the government's way to pass the bill. Karnataka Congress chief DK Shivakumar said the government was in a haste to pass the anti-conversion bill through an ordinance. "I don't know why the Karnataka government is in such a hurry. They should promulgate an ordinance on some development agenda or giving employment to the youth," Shivakumar added.
As per the officials, the Bill is aimed at preventing conversion by means of "allurement," "coercion," "force," "fraudulent means," and "mass conversion". They said these instances cause disturbance of public order in the state.
For 'forced' conversion, the draft recommends imprisonment for three to five years and a fine of Rs. 25,000. It specifies that converting a minor, woman, or SC/ST person will result in a 3-10-year prison sentence and a Rs. 50,000 fine. The Bill also has a provision for mass conversions which may result in 3-10 years in prison and up to Rs. 1 lakh fine.
Karnataka would be the ninth state to pass legislation prohibiting conversion. BJP insiders told Deccan Herald that the anti-cow slaughter law followed a similar path. An ordinance was first passed, then both chambers of the legislature ratified it. They explained that the goal was to guarantee that the anti-conversion law was implemented before the 2023 Assembly election.