The Anti-conversion Bill in Karnataka that was cleared on Thursday emerged as far more stringent.
The draft of the Karnataka Dharma Swatantrya Act, 2012 was sent to the Law Department for scrutiny in September, 2013. The draft was supposed to come up for discussion before Cabinet in 2016. However, the Siddaramaiah-led Congress government never took it up.
The present Bill states that any marriage that has taken place for the sole purpose of unlawful conversion by the man of one religion with the woman of another, either by converting himself before or after marriage or by converting the woman before or after marriage, shall be declared as null and void by the family court. It also says the burden of proof is on the accused.
The previous draft of the Bill did not consider conversion by marriage unlawful, while the burden of proof was on the prosecution.
‘Punishment for contravention of the provisional section may extend to one year imprisonment or with fine which may extend to Rs 5,000 or with both’, stated the previous draft. In the case of a woman, a person belonging to the SC/ST category or a minor, the imprisonment was extended to two years and the fine to Rs 10,000.
According to the latest Bill, punishment from three to five years jail custody, with a fine of Rs 20,000, may be slapped on the accused if proven guilty.