Uttarakhand cabinet strengthens anti-conversion law
TNN| Updated: Aug 9, 2018, 08:21 IST
TNN Trivendra Singh Rawat(file photo)
DEHRADUN: The state cabinet chaired by chief minister Trivendra Singh Rawat on Wednesday approved certain amendments in the Uttarakhand Freedom of Religion Act 2018 to make it more stringent.
Announcing the changes in the law, finance minister Prakash Pant said that under the new amendments, any institution found involved in religious conversion will face cancellation of registration and the onus to prove their innocence will also be upon them.
The anti-conversion law which had come into effect in April in the state had stipulated that “forced or fraudulent conversions done through force or allurement” were a non-bailable offence that can be punished with imprisonment from one to five years.
Moreover, as per the law, one requires government clearance for a religious conversion to be accepted. If a person wanted to convert for marriage, he or she will have to give an affidavit to the district magistrate one month before the wedding to clarify that the conversion is not a “forceful” one. In case the person did not submit the affidavit in the DM’s office, the conversion would be regarded illegal, according to the law.The BJP government had enacted the law after the Uttarakhand high court had in November last year asked the state to frame a ‘Freedom of Religion Act’ on the lines of the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 1968 as well as Himachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 2006, saying that “it has come to our notice that the conversion from one religion to another is often a sham conversion only to facilitate the process of marriage.”
Incidentally, Uttarakhand is the seventh state after Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh and Jharkhand to have passed an anti-conversion law.
Meanwhile, opposition Congress termed the amendment as ‘a dangerous one which can be open to misuse.” Speaking to TOI, Mathura Dutt Joshi, spokesperson of the state Congress said, “Any change in law should be brought in after detailed discussions with different stakeholders and keeping everyone in mind. We are apprehensive that this provision that has been introduced can be used to indulge in a witch-hunt against targeted communities or organisations.”
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