Himachal Pradesh Assembly Passes Freedom Of Religion (Amendment) Bill 2022

Freedom Of Religion Amendment Bill 2022

SHIMLA: On Saturday, Himachal Pradesh Assembly on Saturday passed the Himachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Bill, 2022, which seeks to make the state’s 2019 anti-conversion law more stringent.

The bill was beneficiary for a person who wants to convert themself to another religion by giving a declaration one month before to the District Magistrate or the Executive Magistrate, that he shall not take any benefit of his parent religion or caste after conversion.

On the other hand, the person who continues wants to take benefit of his/her parent’s religion after conversion, shall have to suffer imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than two years but which may extend to five years, and shall also be liable to fine which shall not be less than Rupees fifty thousand and may extend to Rupees one lakh.

Current Existing 2019 Act has a provision given under Section 3 which prohibits conversion from one religion to another through coercion, misrepresentation, or fraudulent means. However, this provision did not punish mass conversion. Now, the amendment act punishes the offense of mass conversion

During a meeting, CM Jairam Thakur said that the 2019 Act didn’t contain any provision to curb mass conversion, therefore, a provision to this effect is being added to the parent act.

Now, the Freedom of religion amendment bill 2022 essentially aims to add certain clauses to this very provision, that is Section 3 of the 2019 Act [Prohibition of conversion from one religion to another by misrepresentation, force, fraud, undue influence, coercion, inducement or marriage] by adding/making changes in the following manner:

  • If a person who intends to marry a person of any religion other than the religion professed by him and conceals his religion in such a manner that the other person whom he intends to marry, believes that his religion is truly the one professed by him, then he shall be punished with a minimum 3 years of imprisonment which may extend to 10 years of imprisonment. In such a case, a fine shall also be imposed which shall not be less than Rupees fifty thousand, but which may extend to Rupees one lakh.
  • Whosoever contravenes the provisions of Section 3 in respect of mass conversion shall be punished with imprisonment for a term, which shall not be less than five years, but which may extend to ten years. In such a case, a fine shall also be imposed which shall not be less than Rupees one lakh to Rupees one lakh fifty thousand. The bill defines ‘mass conversion’ as a conversion wherein two or more two persons are converted at the same time.
  • In case of a second or subsequent offense, the term of imprisonment shall not be less than seven years, but may extend to ten years and shall also be liable to a fine which shall not be less than Rupees one lakh fifty thousand which may extend to Rupees two lakh.
  • In case of contravention of Section 3 in respect of a minor, a woman, or a person belonging to the Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe, the punishment shall not be less than two years but may extend to 10 years and shall also be liable to pay fine.

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