The controversial ordinance will stay in effect till the next assembly session.
By Souptik Dutta, Mrunmayee Kulkarni, and Supriya Mehta
The Karnataka cabinet has enacted the controversial anti-conversion law through an ordinance on Thursday.
The bill was passed by the Karnataka Legislative Assembly in December 2021. However, the government could not pass the bill in the Legislative council because it did not have a majority.
Ashok Gowda of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said Karnataka is the ninth state to have such a law. “This ordinance is necessary to take the country back to what it was supposed to be,” he said. “Dalits are being coerced into Christianity and Islam—it is causing a communal divide in the society.”
The ordinance states that no person can be converted to another religion by ‘misrepresentation, force, allurement or marriage’.
“Islam requires a woman to convert if she wants to marry a Muslim man. This is against her fundamental right to freedom of religion and it is being misused by religious extremists,” Gowda said.
The ordinance allows the family members of the converted person to file a complaint. If someone violates the law, the jail term is three to five years, and it can go up to 10 years if the converted person is a minor or a woman.
B. Chandrasekhar of the Congress called the ordinance a ‘disgrace’. “This ordinance is part of the BJP’s plan to divide the country. Now the goons of the Bajrang Dal will run riot, harassing innocent people who just want to live their lives,” he said.
“Unfortunately, this government is more interested in religious sentiments than building good roads, schools and hospitals,” said Mohan Dasari, Bangalore President of the Aam Admi Party. “Marriage is between two people or families. The government should not decide what I should do or wear or who I marry,” he added.
An ordinance is a decree or law passed by the state or central government without the consent of the legislature. Article 213 of the Indian Constitution empowers the governor of a state to pass an administrative order when the state legislative assembly is not in session, given that the order is not against the fundamental principles of the Indian Constitution.
The last session of Karnataka Legislative Assembly ended on March 30, 2022. The ordinance can stay in effect till six weeks after the Legislative assembly is back in session.