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May 15, 2011

Page: 6/40

Home > 2011 Issues > May 15, 2011

Congress dumps Freedom of Religion Bill passed by BJP in Rajasthan
By Lokpal Sethi in Jaipur

THE government has finally decided to drop the Freedom of Religion Bill, passed twice by Rajasthan Assembly during the BJP regime to curb the religious conversion in the state.

The government would soon write to the President of India, with whom Bill is pending for the past three years, intimating that government had decided to drop the Bill.

In the wake of conversion of some people in Kota and Vanvasi dominated areas like Udaipur, Dungarpur, Banswara and Pratamgarh, the then BJP government in had 2006 brought a Bill in the assembly to check religious conversion by force, allurement or his/ her bribe. The Congress Party had the opposed certain provisions of the Bill.

On its part, the than government then had studied the similar kind of Bills enacted in other states and drafted a comprehensive Bill. It assured the citizens complete freedom in choosing their faith. But at the same time it made stringent provisions in the Bill for not allowing change of the religion of people by under force, allurement or such similar methods widely used in Vanvasi areas.The draft of the Bill provided if any convert Christian wanted to return to its original Hindu faith, it would not considered as religious conversion. This kind of returning to the original faith would be considered as home coming and would not constitute an offence under the provisions of the Bill.

When the Bill was sent for the approval of then Governor Pratibha Singh Patil, as expected, the declined to sign on it and sought certain clarifications from the government. But despite clarifications, she did not gave her nod to the Bill.

That time then Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje called a meeting of her Cabinet to consider the objections raised by the Governor. Though all of them felt that she was not giving her nod to the Bill for political reasons, at the same time Cabinet point by point clarify all the objections raised by the Governor. But instead of putting her signature on the Bill even after clarifications, she suggested the government to bring a Bill on the line of Bill passed by Himachal Pradesh Assembly during the Congress rule.

In 2008 another Bill, almost identical to Himachal Pradesh government, was passed in the Assembly. But the Governor again declined to sign the same and sent it to the President of India saying that since the Bill is related to certain constitutional provisions, only President could give assent to it. At that time Pratibha Singh Patil was not aware that soon she was going to be the President of the country and the Bill would come to her for approval. BJP continuously reminded the President about the Bill.

After change of the government in the state, it became clear that it would put the Bill in cold storage. During all these years, the Congress government in the state never approached the President of the country for her assent to the Bill.

Since the position of President of India was becoming a bit awkward, some time back the matter was discussed at highest level of Gehlot government and it was decided to inform the President that there was no need to give her approval, as the government has decided to drop the Bill.

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