Himachal assembly passes Bill against forced mass conversion | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Himachal assembly passes Bill against forced mass conversion

By, Shimla
Aug 14, 2022 04:22 AM IST

The 2019 Act was notified on December 21, 2020, 15 months after it was passed in the state assembly. The 2019 version had in turn replaced a 2006 law, which prescribed lesser punishments.

The Himachal Pradesh assembly on Saturday passed the Himachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Bill, 2022, forbidding “mass conversion” and enhancing maximum punishment up to 10 years.

Himachal Pradesh chief minister Jai Ram Thakur. (HT file photo)
Himachal Pradesh chief minister Jai Ram Thakur. (HT file photo)

The Virbhadra Singh-led-Congress government was among the first states to pass the anti-conversion Bill in 2006. The Bill was passed with a voice vote even though the opposition members demanded the government to refer the Bill to a select committee. The Bill inserts the reference to “mass conversion”, which is described as two or more people converting at the same time, in the 2019 Act and proposes to increase the punishment for forced conversions to a maximum of 10 years from seven years. Chief minister Jai Ram Thakur tabled the Bill on Friday in the Vidhan Sabha.

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The CM while participating sought the passage of the Bill. He said the Bill has been brought to curb mass conversion. He gave examples of mass conversion in Rohru Rampur and Banjar in Himachal.

The Himachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 2019, was enacted with a view to providing freedom of religion by the prohibition of conversion from one religion to another by misrepresenting force, undue influence, coercion, inducement or any fraudulent means or by marriage and for matters connected therewith. However, in the said Act, there was no provision to curb mass conversion

While participating in the discussion Congress legislators Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu, Jagat Singh Negi and CPI(M) MLA Rakesh Singha demanded the government to refer the Bill to a select committee. Sukhu demanded an amendment in Section 7 of the Bill while Negi claimed that the Bill has been brought to derive political mileage ahead of the elections.

The 2019 Act was notified on December 21, 2020, 15 months after it was passed in the state assembly. The 2019 version had in turn replaced a 2006 law, which prescribed lesser punishments.

As per the amendment of Section 2 of the principal Act, now the clause (fa) has been added that says that mass conversion means a conversion where two or more than two persons are converted at the same time.

Amendment of Section 4 given in the Bill states that if a person marries someone by concealing his religion in such a manner that another person believes that his religion is truly the one professed by him shall be punished with a minimum imprisonment of not less than three years and maximum imprisonment of 10 years, and shall also be liable to fine which shall not be less than 50,000, but which may extend to 1 lakh.

It has also been proposed that 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 10 years, and shall also be liable to fine which shall not be less than one lakh, but which may extend to 1.50 lakh.

In case of a second or subsequent offense mentioned in this Section is committed, the term of imprisonment shall not be less than seven years, but may extend to 10 years and shall also be liable to a fine which shall not be less than 1.50 lakh and which may extend to 2 lakh.

The ruling BJP has been a vocal supporter of anti-conversion laws and many BJP-ruled states have introduced similar measures.

The move comes ahead of the assembly election in the hill state later this year.

Assembly passes nine Bills

The Himachal Pradesh assembly on Saturday passed nine Bills at once. The Bills are the Himachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Amendment Bill, 2022, the Himachal Pradesh Municipal Corporation Second Amendment Bill, 2022, the Himachal Pradesh Municipality Amendment Bill, 2022, the Himachal Pradesh Town and Country Planning Amendment Bill, 2022, the Himachal Pradesh Ground Water Development and Management Regulation and Control Amendment Bill, 2022, the Himachal Pradesh Tenancy and Land Reforms Act Amendment Bill, 2022, the Himachal Pradesh Court Amendment Bill, 2022, the Himachal Pradesh Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Amendment Bill, 2022, and the Himachal Pradesh Payment of Income Tax on Certain Categories of Salaries and Allowances Bill, 2022.

In 5 years, not a single trauma centre set up in Himachal

Not even a single trauma centre was set up during the last five years in Himachal. The trauma centres were approved for Nalagarh, Kotkhai and Una. A budget of 1 crore each has also been approved for these three trauma centres for civil work. Health minister Dr Rajiv Sejal stated this in a written reply to a question of MLA Rohit Thakur. He said that 4.54 crore has been sanctioned for civil work at the Kotkhai health centre and 2.40 lakh has been sanctioned for equipment and 2.40 lakh for communication. He said the DPR is being prepared for opening Level-3 trauma centre at Kotkhai. It will soon be sent to the public works department. He said 61.95 lakh has been approved for civil work of the trauma centre in Nalagarh, 2.40 lakh has been sanctioned for the purchase of equipment and 2.40 lakh for the communication facility. Similarly, 33.34 lakh has been sanctioned for civil work of the trauma centre in Una, 2.40 lakh for the purchase of equipment and 2.40 lakh for communication facility. He said that about 95 per cent of work on the operation theatre to be built for the trauma centre in Nalagarh has been completed. The matter of releasing the budget for the opening of the centre in Una is under consideration by the government.

5,615 applications received in 3 yrs for setting up industries: Minister

In Himachal Pradesh, 5,615 entrepreneurs applied for setting up new industries within the last three years. Out of these, 1,604 have invested 56.87 crore and have given employment to 644 people. This was stated by industries minister Bikram Thakur while responding to the question of MLA Ramesh Chand Dhawala in the Vidhan Sabha. He said the maximum number of 2,506 applications have been received for setting up industries in Solan district and out of these 431 units have been set up. Similarly, 420 applications have been received in Sirmaur, 823 received in Kangra, 103 in Bilaspur, 905 in Mandi, 54 in Kullu, 372 in Una, 257 in Hamirpur, 142 in Shimla, 21 in Chamba, five in Kinnaur and seven in Lahaul-Spiti.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Gaurav Bisht heads Hindustan Times’ Himachal bureau. He covers politics in the hill state and other issues concerning the masses.

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