Uttarakhand Assembly Passes Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Bill, 2022 to Make Anti-Conversion Law More Stringent

Gavel Law Insider

Aastha Thakur

Published on: 03 December 2022 at 21:13 IST

The Uttarakhand State Legislative Assembly sanctioned the Uttarakhand Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Bill, 2022 with a view to making the existing anti-conversion law more stringent.

The aim of the Bill 2022 is to make illegal religious conversion cognizable and non-bailable offence. The sentence for this offence is increased from 1-7 years to 3-10 years.

The Uttarakhand Freedom of Religion Act, 2018, was amended by a bill that the State administration moved in the Assembly on the first day of the Winter Session. Minister Satpal Maharaj introduced the bill.

The introductory section of the Bill states that the amendment is necessary to “remove certain difficulties in the Act.” New clauses have been inserted under the definition Section to include:

(jj) “mass conversion”, which means where two or more persons are converted; the same is punishable under section 3, with 3-10 years imprisonment with ₹50,000 fine;

(jjj) “unlawful religious conversion” means such conversion which is not in accordance with the law of the country;

The Bill also mandates that the information regarding their conversion has to be informed District Magistrate (DM) within, one month before and 60 days after converting under Section 9. Otherwise, the punishment is not less than six months, which may extend to a term of three years.

Under the 2018 Act, a person had to inform the DM only prior to the conversion.

Moreover, this time the Bill also introduces victim compensation for first time of amount up to ₹5 lakh, which shall be paid by the offender over and above the ₹50,000 fine imposed on the accused under the Bill, under Section 3(2).

With the new amendment, charges against someone deemed to be in violation of the Act’s terms, no longer required the District Magistrate’s prior approval.

The Bill has also changed the penalties in situations when a religious priest conducting a purifying Sanskar (conversion ceremony) fails to notify the District Magistrate of such conversion one month in advance.

The priest involved in the conversion ceremony shall be sentenced to a minimum of one year in prison, which may extend to five years, under Section 8(2).

The 2018 Act prescribed imprisonment for six months, which could be extended up to two years.

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