Karnataka government to repeal Anti-conversion Law

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Recently, the Government of Karnataka has announced to repeal of the State’s Protection of Right to Freedom of Religion Act, 2022 also known as the ‘anti-conversion law’.
  • At least 10 states including Madhya Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh already have their anti-conversion laws.
  • The key difference in the new laws is that they seek to ‘criminalize conversions solely for the purpose of marriage’.
About the move:
  • The move came after the new government in the Karnataka took charge. In order to repeal the laws which was controversial including the revised syllabus of textbooks of social sciences has also been reversed.
  • Karnataka has seen opposition to these laws since it was announced, and hence the new government has thought to scrap the order.
  • The decision was also been implemented for the reversal of 2020 amendments to the Agriculture Produce Marketing Act (APMC), which were opposed by farmers.
Karnataka Protection of Right to Freedom of Religion Act, 2022:
  • Key Provisions:
    • Term of punishment: Any person found guilty of unlawfully converting another person will have to face a minimum jail term of 3-5 years and a fine of Rs.25, 000.
    • For Women and Children: If the person ‘unlawfully converted’ is either a minor or a woman or belongs to the SC or ST, the punishment is more — a minimum sentence of 3 years and a maximum of 10 years imprisonment, and Rs.50,000 fine.
    • In cases of ‘mass conversion’ the accused person can face 3-10 years in prison and a fine of Rs.1 lakh.
    • Compensation provided: The accused person must pay compensation to the victim of conversion and this amount can go up to Rs.5 lakh, and must be paid by the accused over and above the fine under the law.
    • Marriages and conversion: In case someone wants to convert to another religion voluntarily, there is a lengthy process in place and this applies to inter-faith marriages too.
The Supreme Court of India has ruled that” Anti-conversion laws are constitutional if they are not used to interfere with an individual’s right to freedom of religion. However, there have been cases in which these laws have been used to target and persecute minority religious groups.”
 Status of Anti-conversion law in India:
  • There are several anti-conversion laws in India that regulate the conversion of one religion to another.
  • These laws vary from state to state, and the specific provisions of the laws can differ significantly.
  • Several states have passed “Freedom of Religion” laws to prohibit forced, fraudulent, or coerced conversions to another religion over the years.
Constitutional Provision:
  • Article 25 of the Indian Constitution guarantees the freedom to practice, profess, and propagate any religion.
    • It also grants all religious groups the right to control their own religious affairs, subject to public morality, health, and order.
  • Existing Laws:
    • Religious conversions have not been subject to any national restrictions or regulations.
    • Private Member Bills to control religious conversions, however, have repeatedly been introduced in the Parliament since 1954 (but never passed by it).
    • Additionally, the Union Law Ministry stated in 2015 that Parliament lacks the legislative authority to enact legislation prohibiting conversion.
  • In recent years, there has been significant controversy and debate over the use of anti-conversion laws in India.
Supreme Court Judgements on Marriage and Conversion:
  • Hadiya Judgement 2017:
    • Matters of dress and of food, of ideas and ideologies, of love and partnership, are within the central aspects of identity.
    • Neither the State nor the law can dictate a choice of partners or limit the free ability of every person to decide on these matters.
  • The principle that the right to marry a person of one’s choice is integral to Article 21.
  • The Supreme Court of India, in both the Lily Thomas and Sarla Mudgal cases, has confirmed that religious conversions carried out without a bona fide belief and for the sole purpose of deriving some legal benefits do not hold water.
  • Salamat Ansari-PriyankaKharwar case of Allahabad High Court 2020: The right to choose a partner or live with a person of choice was part of a citizen’s fundamental right to life and liberty (Article 21).
  • Puttaswamy or ‘privacy’ Judgment 2017: Autonomy of the individual was the ability to make decisions in vital matters of concern to life.

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