Belagavi: The Anti-Conversion Bill was passed in Karnataka Assembly on Thursday amidst protests by the Opposition Congress.
Pandemonium erupted after BJP claimed that the Anti-Conversion Bill was an improvement on the draft prepared during Siddharamaiah’s tenure as the Chief Minister in 2016. Both members of the ruling and Opposition members cast aspersions on each other over the Bill.
Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai questioned the Congress why the bill was processed by the Law Commission during Siddharamaiah’s tenure as the Chief Minister and why it was not stopped then. He said the then Law Minister had approved the draft Bill and it was presented before the Cabinet, when the then CM Siddharamaiah agreed to.
He also said the Congress had prepared the draft Bill inspired by the then Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, who brought anti-conversion law in 2006.
“The Congress is saying that the present Bill is prepared by RSS. It is an open secret that RSS is against forcible religious conversion. But, why did the Congress want to pursue the RSS agenda of bringing an Anti-Conversion Bill,” Bommai asked.
“The reason why the Congress had brought the then Bill in 2016 in Karnataka was, it was inspired by Virbhadra Singh’s stringent Anti-Conversion Bill,” he added.
Bommai said the present Bill introduced by Karnataka Government is constitutional and has the purpose of stopping the forcible religious conversion and protecting dalits and women. The Bill’s objective is to maintain public order as conversions create tension between communities, he said.
The Chief Minister also alleged that the Congress was opposing the Bill for vote bank politics and had a double-tongued approach towards the issue. “When they are in power they are for Anti-Conversion Bill and when in opposition, they oppose it. This is a dual policy of the Congress,” he said.
“Therefore, I urge the Chair (Speaker) to pass the Bill,” Bommai concluded.
When Speaker Vishweshwar Hegde Kageri put the bill for voice vote, Congress members trooped into the well of the House in protest against it.
Earlier, Siddharamaiah, in defense, agreed that the Law Commission report was submitted, but was not discussed and approved by the then Cabinet, and hence the then Congress Government did not have any intention to implement the bill.
If the then Government had the intention of implementing the Bill, it could have been done as it was in power for next two years, Siddharamaiah argued.
Joining the issue, Congress members maintained that the details of the then Bill was different from the one presented by the BJP Government.
Countering it, Minister J.C. Madhuswamy agreed it is dissimilar because two to three changes have been made to the 2016 draft.
Karnataka Assembly Speaker Vishweshwar Hegde Kageri adjourned the House for 10 minutes and summoned Madhuswamy and Siddharamaiah to his chamber to go through the documents.
On resumption, Siddharamaiah said the Anti-Conversion Bill is identical to the one in Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat and therefore it will be struck down in the Court as it was done in these States.
He contended that there was no necessity to introduce the Bill as section 295(a) of Indian Penal Code already protects from conversion with malafide intentions. IPC 295(a) states “Deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs.”
The Bill provides an imprisonment from three to five years with a fine of Rs. 25,000, while for violation of provisions with respect to minors, women, SC/ST, offenders will face imprisonment from three to ten years and a fine of not less than Rs. 50,000. The Bill also proposes the culprit to pay up to Rs. 5 lakh as compensation to those who were converted and with regards to cases of mass conversion the Bill proposes 3-10 years jail term and a fine of up to Rs. 1 lakh. It also provides that any marriage which happened for the sole purpose of 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.