The Karnataka Legislative Assembly on Wednesday passed the Karnataka Protection of Right to Freedom of Religion Bill, 2022, (popularly called the anti-conversion Bill) by voice vote amid walkout by Opposition Congress members.
The Legislative Council passed the Bill on September 15. With its passage in the Assembly, both the Houses of the Karnataka legislature have passed the Bill, which will now await the Governor’s assent.
The Bill was first passed in the Legislative Assembly during the winter session in Belagavi in December 2021. But it was not cleared in the Council last year. An Ordinance was promulgated on May 17, 2022, which the law will now replace.
Home Minister Araga Jnanendra said the Right to Freedom of Religion is guaranteed under Article 25 of the Constitution, subject to public order, morality and health and to other provisions of part III of the Constitution. By virtue of these guaranteed fundamental rights, all persons are free to profess, practice, and propagate any religion of their choice. He said in Rev. Stanislaus Vs. State of Madhya Pradesh and Orissa (1977), the Supreme Court had held that the “right to propagate” under Article 25 did not include the right to convert another person.
Conversion by ‘allurement’
Defending the controversial Bill, the Home Minister claimed that in recent years the State had noticed many instances of conversion by means of “allurement”, “coercion”, “force”, “fraudulent means” and also “mass conversion”. These instances caused disturbance of public order in the State, he said. At present, no legislation is in existence in the State to prevent such instances which cause disturbance to public order and to punish persons indulged in such acts.
The Law Commission of Karnataka, after studying various laws on the subject and considering the situation in the State in its 30th report, has made recommendations to the government to enact a suitable law on the subject. Mr. Jnanendra said the Bill only spoke about forced conversion and not against any religion.
U.T. Khader, Deputy Leader of the Opposition Congress, said the Bill was “’unconstitutional and politically motivated”. The Bill would not stand before the court of law, he said.