Blatant violation of constitutional safeguards: PUCL condemns Karnataka’s anti-conversion bill

People’s Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL) has condemned the passing of the anti-conversion bill in Karnataka, saying that the ordinance is a ‘blatant violation of the constitutional safeguards and must be resisted by all those who believe in Constitution.’

Amid protests by Christians against the anti-conversion ordinance, Karnataka Governor Thaawarchand Gehlot on Tuesday gave his consent to the ordinance, making it a law. The BJP government has notified the Karnataka Protection of Right to Freedom of Religious Ordinance.

In a press statement, PUCL said, “There were no urgent circumstances necessitating the promulgation of the ordinance. It is a ‘fraud on the Constitution’ and makes a mockery of the theory of separation of powers which mandates that it is the legislature and not the executive who is the law making authority.”

The Governor’s assent comes a day after the Bengaluru Archbishop, Peter Machado had requested him not to give his approval to the ordinance.

“The ordinance makes grave inroads into the constitutional freedoms guaranteed to all Indians and will tarnish the secular fabric and rich cultural traditions of communal harmony that exist between faiths,” PUCL said.

Ever since the coming to power of the Basavaraj Bommai government, they noted, “the minorities in the state have been reeling under a regime of fear and insecurity with Hindutva groups outrightly threatening to demolish churches, engaging in acts of vigilantism in the name of ‘moral policing’, calls to regulate azan and boycott Muslim businesses and the prohibition of the wearing of the hijab.”

The human rights body added that the state has failed to take action against these Hindutva groups who are “outrightly threatening the constitutional ideals of non discrimination, equality, fraternity and dignity.”

“The cabinet decision to take the ordinance route, only shows the implicit support of the government to the vigilante elements who blatantly violate the Constitution,” PUCL stated.

As per the government notification, the ordinance is passed for protection of right to freedom of religion and prohibition of unlawful conversion from one religion to another by allurement, misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion or by any fraudulent means.

However, if a person wishes to convert his religion, then he has to give a declaration in Form-I, 30 days in advance to the District Magistrate or the Additional District Magistrate specially of his residing district or place of birth within the state.

Those who violate the bill will afce with imprisonment for a term of three years which may extend to five years and shall also be liable to fine of Rs 25,000. The offences committed under the ordinance are cognisable and non-bailable.

PUCL has said that the requirement of notice for conversion and the public display of details of the one choosing to covert in the office of the District Magistrate is itself a “violation of the constitutionally recognized right to privacy which was laid down by nine judges of the Supreme Court in Puttaswamy v Union of India.”

This criminalisation of charity, love across lines of religion and the freedom of faith in the form of this ordinance is a blatant violation of the constitutional safeguards and must be resisted by all those who believe in the Constitution,” it said.

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