WITH NO response from the Solicitor General of India’s (SGI) office, the Raj Bhavan has decided to take a stand, based on its own judgement, on the controversial MP Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Bill, 2006. A decision over the fate of the Bill is expected in two to three days, Raj Bhavan sources told the Hindustan Times.
The Raj Bhavan sought the SGI opinion with particular reference to whether the proposed amendments are consistent with Article 25 and 26 of the Constitution, the sources said.
Article 25 pertains to freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion, while Article 26 confers right to a religious denomination to establish and maintain institutions as well as manage own affairs in matters of religion.
Apart from seeking the SGI opinion, the Raj Bhavan had sought detailed information on the State Home Department regarding the number of conversions taking place under the existing Act on freedom of religion (MP Dharma Swatantraya Adhiniyam, 1968) to take stock of the situation and assess the need for the amendments proposed by the State Government.
The Home Department, after some delays, has finally sent in relevant information to the Governor’s office. Though there are no indications about the fate of the bill, given the level of questioning Raj Bhavan has done, there are chances that the bill might be returned by Governor sans signature, sources said.
The controversial MP Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Bill 2006 seeks to amend mainly the Section 5 and 8 of the MP Dharma Swatantraya Adhiniyam, 1968, in a way that any person seeking to change religion will have to give prior intimation to the district authorities mentioning that he/she seeks to get converted on own will.
The Bill also seeks to make it mandatory for the priest who intends to perform any conversion ceremony to inform about the time, date and place of the ceremony one month in advance of the ceremony.
The Bill also provisions that the district collector will inform of all such intended conversions to the Superintendent of Police, who, in turn, will seek an opinion among the community (through the related local police officials) as to whether there are any objections to the proposed conversion.
The amendment also provides for a fine of Rs 1,000 for any person who fails to give this prior intimation. The amendments have generated heat as it is being looked upon as curtailing the freedom of religion of particular communities.
The Congress had made representations to the Raj Bhavan against the Bill after it was passed during the monsoon session of the Assembly.