Himachal Assembly Passes Stringent ‘Mass Conversion’ Bill

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SHIMLA — The state legislative assembly on Saturday passed the Himachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Bill of 2022 with a voice vote to enhance punishment and add a specific mention of “mass conversion” to the existing law.

Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur said earlier the law was enacted with a view to providing freedom of religion by prohibiting religious conversions by misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, inducement or by any fraudulent means or marriage. “Now, some amendments need to be made to make it stricter.”

Himachal Pradesh was among the first states to enact the anti-conversion law in 2006. However, later the government repealed the Act and enacted the Himachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 20l9 citing rise in cases of forced conversion.

“There was no provision in the Act to curb mass conversions. Therefore, a provision to this effect is being made. The jail for mass conversions shall be between five and 10 years and a fine of Rs 1.50 lakh,” Thakur said while tabling the Bill in the Vidhan Sabha on Friday, the penultimate day of the session.

The 2006 law was brought by the Virbhadra Singh-led Congress government. The BJP government introduced the 2019 version, which was passed unanimously. — IANS

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