PUCL Karnataka Towards civil liberties and human rights for all in Karnataka


05.18.2022 · Posted in Uncategorized

On the 17th May, 2022, the Governor of Karnataka in an extraordinary move, promulgated The Karnataka Protection of Right to Freedom of Religion Ordinance, 2022. There were no urgent circumstances necessitating the promulgation of the ordinance. The promulgation of this ordinace is a ‘fraud on the Constitution’ and makes a mockery of the theory of separation of powers which mandates that it is the legislature and not the executive who is the law making authority.

The ordinance makes grave inroads into the constitutional freedoms guaranteed to all Indians and will tarnish the secular fabric and rich cultural traditions of communal harmony that exist between faiths. Ever since the coming to power of the Basavaraj Bommai government, the minorities in the state have been reeling under a regime of fear and insecurity with Hindutva groups outrightly threatening to demolish churches, engaging in acts of vigilantism in the name of ‘moral policing’, calls to regulate azan and boycott Muslim businesses and the prohibition of the wearing of the hijab. The Karnataka Government has failed to step in and take action against these Hindutva groups who are outrightly threatening the constitutional ideals of non discrimination, equality, fraternity and dignity.

The cabinet decision to take the ordinance route, in the midst of such circumstances only shows the implicit support of the government to the vigilante elements who blatantly violate the Constitution. The Governor who is the constitutional head of the State has given the go by to the very constitution he has sworn to protect and defend by allowing this prima facie unconstitutional ordinance to become law.

PUCL is deeply distressed, that the Governor has failed to take note of the attacks on minorities before deciding to promulgate the ordinance. In its recent report titled “Criminalising the Practice of Faith”, PUCL had specifically documented sixty two hate crimes perpetrated against the Christians in Karnataka by Hindutva groups. The report exposed the modus operandi of the Hindutva groups using the bogey of conversion to attack minorities. The Governor and the Government have today legitimized the excesses of the vigilantes by promulgating an ordinance which will provide legal cover for the lawless, coercive and threatening actions of the Hindutva groups.

The passing of the ordinance means that Karnataka now enters a dangerous new phrase as far as attacks on minorities are concerned, because today these attacks are legitimized by law. The criminalization of conversion by allurement, conversion by the promise of marriage as well as the regulations around conversion are the unconstitutional heart of an unconstitutional law.

Allurement is defined very broadly to include the offer of ‘gifts or gratification in cash or kind’ as well as ‘employment or free education.’ Philanthropic activities be it the running of schools or vocational centres can easily be tarred as criminal activities being done for the purpose of conversion. This potentially criminalises all charitable activity carried out by Christian institutions with deep repercussions for the Preambular promise of fraternity.

The ordinance also targets love marriages, especially if they are across lines of religion by criminalising conversion with the ‘promise of marriage’. The criminalisation of conversion with the ‘promise of marriage’, violates a core aspect of the constitution, namely the right to marry the person of one’s choice and have the faith of one’s choice.

The ordinance finally drops the pretence that it is only concerned with illegal conversions, by going on to restrict the right to consensually convert and be converted with bureaucratic and police regulations. Under Section 8, the one who desires to convert as well as the one performing the conversion must submit a form to the District Magistrate thirty days in advance.

The requirement of notice for conversion and the public display of details of the one choosing to covert in the office of the District Magistrate is itself a violation of the constitutionally recognized right to privacy which was laid down by nine judges of the Supreme Court in Puttaswamy v Union of India.

This criminalisation of charity, love across lines of religion as well as the freedom of faith in the form of this ordinance is a blatant violation of the constitutional safeguards and must be resisted by all those who believe in the Constitution. Today, we who believe in the Constitution have no option but to stiffen our resolve and re-dedicate ourselves to the fight for the fundamental rights and freedoms which ‘We the people of India’, gave to ourselves on January 26, 1950.

Adv. Arvind Narrain, President
PUCL – Karnataka

Adv. Robin Christopher, General Secretary PUCL – Karnataka

Mr. Shujayathulla, President
PUCL – Bangalore

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