The 'Religious Freedom Bill' aimed at banning forcible religious conversions will help maintain law and order, Rajasthan minister Gulab Chand Kataria said today. He said the Rajasthan Dharma Swatantraya Bill, 2008, was under the consideration of the Union home ministry. "The ministry had sought a factual report, which we submitted recently," he told reporters here. The home minister said legal opinion was taken and a draft sent to the governor, mentioning the other states which have come up with such a legislation. He added that Himachal Pradesh had brought such a bill in 2006, which was approved by the then president. The state assembly had passed the bill in 2006 and sent it to the governor, who kept it on hold. Later, the governor returned the bill suggesting amendments.
In 2008, the bill was again sent to the governor, which was then finally sent to the president. Kataria said the amendments made were that the collector needed to be informed in 100 days (about forcible conversions) and sanction was required from the collector for prosecution. According to the 2006 Bill, he said, forceful religious conversion or by allurement was punishable for 2-5 years jail and a penalty of Rs 50,000. In the 2008 Bill, the punishment was amended to 1-3 years' jail, and 2-5 years in the case of an offence committed in respect of a minor, a woman or a person belonging to a scheduled caste or scheduled tribe.
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