Explained: Haryana govt’s anti-conversion Bill, its provisions and Opposition’s objections

Varinder Bhatia

© Provided by The Indian Express
The BJP government in Haryana introduced the Haryana Prevention of Unlawful Conversion of Religious Bill, 2022 in the Vidhan Sabha amid protests by the Opposition Congress on Friday (March 4). Dr. Raghuvir Singh Kadian, a six-time MLA, was suspended after he tore a copy of the Bill on the floor of the House. Varinder Bhatia explains the Bill, its objectives and reasons.

What is the government’s reasoning for enacting such a legislation?

Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, last year in August, had said, “Law is enacted to create a deterrent for people when they start doing something wrong. Such incidents [of ‘love jihad’] have started taking place in a few places of Haryana. Till the time these were not happening, or when there were only one or two such incidents, there was no requirement of such a law in this regard. But now several incidents of forced religious conversion by way of coercion and allurements have come to light. To prevent such incidents from happening, such laws are required. By way of example, I can say this is why we passed the anti-copying Bill. Laws are required to prevent any of these incidents from increasing in number.”

How the state government plans to enact this legislation?

As the first step, the draft of the Bill was approved by the state Cabinet chaired by Khattar in February. Now, the Bill was introduced in the Vidhan Sabha’s ongoing Budget session that commenced on March 2. The BJP-JJP coalition in the state has a strength of 50 members in the 90-member Vidhan Sabha. The Bill is all set to be passed. It shall subsequently be sent to the Governor for his final assent. Once the Governor gives his assent, it shall be enacted as law and implemented across the state.

What does this Bill propose?

The Bill seeks to “prohibit religious conversions which are effected through misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, allurement or by any fraudulent means or by marriage or for marriage by making it an offence”.

Also read |Uproar in Haryana Assembly over introduction of anti-conversion Bill

What is the Opposition’s objection to the Bill?

Congress MLAs including BB Batra, Dr. Raghuvir Singh Kadian, Geeta Bhukkal, Shamsher Singh Gogi, Aftab Ahmed and several others raised strong objections, specifically to the reasoning for bringing such a Bill. Several Congress MLAs called the Bill “unconstitutional” and termed it the government’s attempt to “create a divide in the society on the basis of religion”. The Congress MLAs also asked the government to apprise the House as to how many such complaints or criminal cases were registered that formed the basis to bring such a Bill. However, Vidhan Sabha Speaker Gian Chand Gupta said that “certain steps are also to be taken as preventive measures”.

What is the reasoning that the Bill mentions?

According to the draft of the Bill, “The individual right to freedom of conscience and religion cannot be extended to construe a collective right to proselytize; for the right to religious freedom belongs equally to the person converting and the individual sought to be converted. Still, there have been umpteen cases of religious conversions, both mass and individual. Obviously, such incidents have been hotly debated, more so in a multi-religious society, such as ours. The presence of pseudo-social organizations with a hidden agenda to convert the vulnerable sections of other religions. There have been instances when gullible people have been converted by offering allurement or under undue influence. Some have been forced to convert to other religions.”

What is the legal position on such a Bill or such incidents of forceful conversions?

The government says that “in recent past several instances came to the notice that with an agenda to increase strength of their own religion by getting people from other religions converted, people marry persons of other religion by either misrepresentation or concealment of their own religion and after getting married they force such other person to convert to their own religion”.

Also read |Explained: Why is Haryana bringing an anti-conversion law; what does the draft Bill say?

“Such incidents not only infringe the freedom of religion of the persons so converted but also militate against the secular fabric of our society. The Bill, therefore, seeks to prevent religious conversions which are affected through use of force, under threat, misrepresentation, undue influence, coercion, allurement or by any fraudulent means or by marriage or for marriage by making it an offence. Provide greater punishment for such conversion in respect of the minor, women, Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes”, the statements of objectives and reasons added.

Onus of proof to establish if a forceful conversion took place

The burden of proof, according to the draft Bill, as to whether a conversion was not affected through misrepresentation, use of force, under threat, undue influence, coercion, allurement or by any fraudulent means or by marriage or for marriage for the purpose of carrying out conversion shall be on the accused.

How will a wilful conversion take place?

Every individual converting from one religion to another shall submit to the prescribed authority a declaration that the conversion affected was not through misrepresentation, use of force, under threat, undue influence, coercion, allurement or by any fraudulent means or by marriage or for marriage. The designated authority shall make an inquiry in all such cases. There will also be a provision for declaring such marriages null and void if found to have been solemnised by concealment of religion.

source : https://www.msn.com/en-in/news/in-depth/explained-haryana-govts-anti-conversion-bill-its-provisions-and-oppositions-objections/ar-AAUBVyu?ocid=sw

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