Himachal Governor approves anti-conversion amendment bill

Dharamshala: Governor RV Arlekar has approved the Himachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Bill, 2022 and nine other bills. Chief Minister Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu gave this information in the House on the second day of the winter session here today. These bills were passed during the tenure of the previous BJP government.

According to the Himachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Bill, 2022, the definition of mass conversion will now mean conversion of two or more persons at the same time. Under Section 7 of the Act, no person, who converts to another religion, shall, after conversion, take any benefit of his original religion or caste. If a person makes a false declaration and takes advantage of caste or religion after conversion, he shall be punishable with imprisonment of not less than two years, which may extend to five years, and with fine which may extend to one lakh rupees. ,

The amendment bars people belonging to Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST) from availing caste benefits after conversion to other religions. It states that “any person who intends to marry a person of a religion other than that which he professes and conceals his religion in such a way that the other person whom he proposes to marry does not believe that his religion is true, he shall be punishable with imprisonment which shall not be less than three years and may extend to 10 years and with fine which may extend to Rs 1 lakh.”

The amendment also states that any person involved in mass conversion in contravention of the provisions of the Act shall be liable to imprisonment of five to 10 years. If the offense is committed for the second time, the minimum term of imprisonment shall be seven years, which may extend to 10 years and fine which may extend to Rs 1 lakh. Other Bills introduced in the House include the Himachal Pradesh Appropriation (No. 3) Bill, 2022. It provides authorization of Rs 474 crore from the Consolidated Fund of Himachal Pradesh to meet certain expenditure for the financial year 2013-14.

The Himachal Pradesh Lokayukta (Amendment) Bill 2021 provides for the appointment of a High Court judge as Lokayukta. Earlier, only Chief Justices of High Courts were eligible for the post.

The Himachal Pradesh Ground Water (Regulation and Control of Development and Management) Amendment Bill aims to regulate the use of ground water. In this, there is a provision of punishment of five years for violating the provisions.

The Himachal Pradesh Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (Amendment) Bill 2022 provides that the fiscal deficit in the state budget for the financial year 2020-21 may exceed 3 percent to 4 percent of the state’s gross domestic product.

The Himachal Pradesh Municipal (Amendment) Bill, 2022 and the Himachal Pradesh Municipal Corporation (Second Amendment) Bill, 2022 provide that if the State Election Commission cannot conduct elections to any municipality or municipal corporation during a specified period for reasons beyond its control such officer or authority as the Government may appoint shall exercise all the powers under the Acts.

Apart from this, the Himachal Pradesh Payment of Income Tax on Salaries and Certain Categories of Allowances Bill 2022, the Himachal Pradesh Courts (Amendment) Bill, 2022 and the Himachal Pradesh Town and Country Planning (Amendment) Bill, 2022 have also got the approval of the Governor.