Uttarakhand amends Freedom of Religion Act to make forced conversion a cognisable offence

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Uttarakhand CM Pushkar Singh Dhami. File

Uttarakhand CM Pushkar Singh Dhami. File
| Photo Credit: PTI

With the aim to make the State’s existing anti-conversion law more stringent, the Uttarakhand Cabinet on Wednesday decided that forced conversion is a cognisable offence in the State, with the provision for punishment of up to 10 years imprisonment.

The State Cabinet, chaired by Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami, also gave its approval for shifting the Uttarakhand High Court from Nainital to Haldwani. Apart from these, 20 other proposals concerning various departments, including power, rural development, and fire safety, had been placed before the Cabinet.

The 2018 Uttarakhand Freedom of Religion Act was created with the aim of reinforcing the importance of each religion equally under the Right to Freedom of Religion in Articles 25, 26, 27 and 28 of the Constitution of India.

Sources in the government said the amendments in the anti-conversion law were proposed by the Chief Minister himself. “He had previously asked the Police Department to prepare a proposal or plan to tackle conversion related matters. He mooted the idea after a church in Roorkee was attacked by miscreants for allegedly promoting mass conversion,” a government official said.

The statement from the government on amending the anti-conversion law says that, at present, the Uttarakhand Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Bill, 2022 is being promulgated as in the State of Uttar Pradesh “in view of the changed circumstances”.

“The legislation will soon be brought in the State Assembly, introducing the amendments in the anti-conversion law,” the official said.

The State’s anti-conversion Act till now stipulated a prison term of up to five years for anyone convicted of “forced or fraudulent” conversion.

The State Cabinet also gave the nod to the rehabilitation of 1,326 families to be affected by the construction of the Jamrani dam, and to increase the subsidy on fodder and silage.

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