BENGALURU: Karnataka Governor Thaawarchand Gehlot on Tuesday gave his assent to the order which gave effect to the Karnataka Right to Freedom of Religion Bill 2021, commonly referred to as the Anti-Conversion Bill.
The bill was passed in the Assembly in December last year but was pending before the Council where the ruling BJP is within a majority.
The government of Karnataka enacted the Karnataka Religious Freedom Protection Ordinance on May 12.
The governor’s nod came a day after the Archbishop of Bengaluru, Peter Machado, accompanied by a Christian delegation, called him asking him to withhold the ordinance and not give his approval.
According to the government memo, the order aims to protect the right to freedom of religion and to prohibit unlawful conversion from one religion to another by misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, seduction or by any fraudulent means.
“Whereas the Karnataka Legislative Assembly and the Karnataka Legislative Council are not in session and the Honorable Governor of Karnataka is satisfied that circumstances exist which make it necessary for him to take immediate steps to enact the order for the purposes hereinafter appearing”, the notification gazzette read.
The ordinance states that any converted person, his or her parents, brother, sister or any other person related to him or her by blood, marriage or adoption or in any form whatsoever, associate or co-worker may file suit against this conversion.
Violators will be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term of three years but up to five years and will also be liable to a fine of Rs 25,000.
With regard to mass conversion, the penalty extends up to the imprisonment of either description for a term of three years but which may extend up to ten years and “shall also be liable a fine of Rs one lakh”.
“The court shall also award appropriate compensation payable by the defendant to the victim of the said conversion, which may extend up to a maximum of Rs five lakh and shall be in addition to the fine,” the order reads.
In addition, anyone who has previously been convicted of an offense under this order is again convicted of an offense punishable under this order shall be punished with imprisonment for either other description for a term of at least five years and shall also be liable to a fine of Rs. two lakh.
Offenses committed under the ordinance are punishable and non-bailable.
Anyone wishing to convert his religion shall make a declaration on Form I at least thirty days in advance to the district magistrate or additional district magistrate specially authorized by the district magistrate in his district of residence or place of birth in the State.
The religious converter who performs a conversion ceremony to convert any person from one religion to another religion, shall give thirty days’ notice in Form-2 of such intended conversion, to the District Magistrate or Additional District Magistrate, specially authorized by the district magistrate of the district from which the proposed converter originated, according to the ordinance.
The District Magistrate, after receiving the information, will notify the proposed religious conversion on the notice board of the District Magistrate’s office and in the office of the Tahsildar calling for objections.
If objections are received within 30 days, he will obtain an investigation by officials of the Department of Revenue or Welfare as to the true intent, purpose and cause of the proposed conversion.
“If the District Magistrate reaches a conclusion based on the said investigation of the commission of an offense under this order, he will compel the police authorities concerned to initiate criminal proceedings for breach of the provisions of Article 3” , says the order.
Machado alleged on Monday that some groups in Karnataka wanted to push minorities aside.
The Archbishop had said going to court would be one of the options to stop the enactment of the ordinance.
“If the ordinance is enacted, then surely we have to find ways to find resources for us from different sides and the legal route is also one of the things we can take,” he told reporters. Monday.
Karnataka’s congressional unit had opposed the bill calling it “draconian” and “unconstitutional”.