Govt likely to bring anti-conversion bill

NEW DELHI, AUG 10 (AGENCIES) | Publish Date: 8/10/2019 11:48:38 AM IST

Buoyed by its victory in scrapping the special status of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370, Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led NDA government is likely to touch another contentious issue in the next Parliament session, to bring a bill to prevent conversion of religion. 

Sources have told Zee News that the BJP-led government may bring the anti-conversion bill in the next session of Parliament.

“The government has already started preparations for the same and discussions are underway to bring a bill that prevent any kind of religious conversion,” the news portal quoted a well-placed source as saying.

The bill, if introduced, is likely to raise the opposition’s hackles and will face a staunch test before it is passed in Parliament. However, the Modi-led government has managed to pass 35 bills in the recently-concluded Budget session, despite massive protests by the opposition parties over many of them in both the Houses. This comes shortly after the conclusion of the Budget Session of Parliament wherein the government passed key bills like Jammu and Kashmir Re-organisation Bill, which bifurcates the state into two Union Territories – Jammu-Kashmir and Ladakh, and Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, which criminalises triple talaq.

Both the bills were passed in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha amid uproar by opposition. 

In 2003 when Narendra Modi was chief minister of Gujarat, the state passed the Freedom of Religion Act that prohibits conversion by force or inducement.  Narendra Modi called the passage of the anti-conversion Act as one of the main achievements of his government. The Centre may bring a Bill on the line of Gujarat’s anti-conversion law.

In 2015, the Law ministry had informed the Home Ministry that the anti-conversion issue was purely a “state subject” and the Union government has no jurisdiction for enacting any legislation in this regard. 

According to The Economic Times report, quoting an official sources, the Law Ministry told the Home Ministry that any such move will not only be legally untenable, it will also go against the basic tenets of the Constitution. 

The Law Ministry’s opinion came after Home Ministry sought a clarification in the matter following demands by some Sangh Parivar outfits which was backed by some BJP ministers at the Centre.

In the wake of a row over forced religious conversions allegedly by some Sangh Parivar outfits, BJP leaders and some Union Ministers had said they were ready to bring an anti-conversion law even as they put the onus on the opposition parties for supporting such a move.

Then Home minister Rajnath Singh had questioned the practice of conversions and advocated a debate on the need for an anti- conversion law.

“In other countries, it is the minorities which ask for anti-conversion law. Here, we are only saying that there should be an anti-conversion law. There should be debate over it. We must think on bringing an anti-conversion law. I humbly request all of you to think over it,” Singh had said at a function of state minority commissions.

Five states -- BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, BJD-ruled Odisha and Congress-ruled Himachal Pradesh -- currently have anti-conversion laws to prevent forced conversion. The laws do not ban conversion so long as it is voluntary.

Meanwhile, in 2018, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), which examined laws in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka, in its special report on anti-conversion laws said: “Anti-conversion laws are frequently abused by extremists who seek to prevent anyone from leaving the majority religion.”

“These laws abrogate the religious freedom rights of minority communities, such as Hindus in Pakistan or Christians in Nepal, and as such they should be rescinded,” USCIRF commissioner Nadine Maenza.


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