The much awaited Uttarakhand Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Act 2022 of Uttarakhand has got the approval of the Governor. Additional Secretary Legislative Assembly of Uttarakhand informed that the Uttarakhand Religion Freedom Amendment Bill passed by the Legislative Assembly has been approved by the Raj Bhavan. Illegal conversion has been made a cognizable and non-bailable offense in the Uttarakhand Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Act 2022. To make the law even more powerful, its punishment has been fixed from 2 to 7 years. A fine of up to Rs 25,000 will also be imposed on the offender.
The bill was passed by the assembly on November 29
On November 29, on the first day of the winter session of the Uttarakhand Legislative Assembly, an amendment bill regarding the conversion law was introduced. Cabinet Minister Satpal Maharaj had informed in the assembly that, since Uttarakhand is a state adjacent to China and Nepal. Due to this, there are chances of conversion in the state. That’s why this law has been made even more powerful. Maharaj, stating the objectives and reasons for the bill, had said that, under the right to freedom of religion, under Articles 25, 26, 27 and 28 of the Constitution of India, Uttarakhand to strengthen the importance of each religion equally Amendment is necessary to remove some difficulties in the Freedom of Religion Act 2018.
This conversion law is strict
Strict amendments have been made in this conversion law. Under which from now on, forced conversion will be a cognizable offence. In the new law, there is a provision of punishment of 10 years for forcibly converting. The draft bill states, ‘No person shall, directly or otherwise, convert any other person from one religion to another by means of misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, inducement or any fraud. No person will promote or conspire for such conversion.
It should be noted that the Anti Conversion Law came into existence in the year 2018 in Uttarakhand, but at that time it was being called flexible. Because till now it was a bailable offence. But, on 16 November 2022, in the cabinet meeting of the Dhami government of Uttarakhand, it was approved to make it stricter on the lines of the conversion law applicable in UP. After this, on the first day of the assembly session, an amendment has also been made regarding the conversion law. After the amendment in the law, forcible conversion can now be punished for two to seven years. Earlier there was a provision of punishment of one to five years. By amending the Uttarakhand Conversion Act, provision has been made for maximum punishment of 10 years even for mass religious conversion.
Conversion cases in Uttarakhand
Since the implementation of this law, so far only 5 cases of conversion have been registered in the state and the police is investigating these cases. In fact, the presence of non-Hindus is increasing rapidly in the mountainous regions of Uttarakhand. Most of this number is in Haridwar, Udham Singh Nagar, Dehradun districts. But the biggest thing is that so far only 5 cases have been registered in the police regarding conversion in Uttarakhand. In this, three cases have been registered from Haridwar and two from Dehradun. All these cases have been registered regarding the conversion law made in 2018. That is, the police do not have any record of the conversion that took place earlier.