Modi Govt to enforce anti-conversion law sans changes

Ahmedabad, India - With Governor Nawal Kishore Sharma having returned a controversial bill passed by Gujarat assembly amending the law to check religious conversion, the Gujarat government has decided to enforce the law without the changes.

Sharma had returned the amendments bill to the Rules of Freedom of Religion Act 2003. The amendments were brought by the government in 2006.

"Rules of Freedom of Religion Act 2003 will be notified soon", Urban Development Minister I K Jadeja said in a statement after a state cabinet meeting chaired by Chief Minister Narendra Modi in Gandhinagar yesterday.

Though the Act was passed way back in 2003, it was not brought to effect as the rules of the Act were not framed.

"The Act cannot be said to be dormant as it already exists but it has not been brought to effect as the rules have not been framed," Home Ministry officials said today.

The delay in framing of rules has been caused as the home department was awaiting some clarifications, officials said.

However, now the state cabinat has decided to notify the rules for the same soon, officials said.

The Modi government had passed the Act in Gujarat Assembly in 2003, immediately after returning to power in December 2002.

In 2006, it had passed a Gujarat Freedom of Religion (amendment) Bill 2006 in the state legislature wherein it had made some amendments to the orginal Act.

In this amended Act, the government had re-defined the word `convert` and said Jains and Buddhists were part of the Hindu fold and change of religion among them cannot be treated as conversion.

Meanwhile, opposition Congress today alleged the state government`s move to frame the rules just before the assembly elections is a "farce".

"Why it took them so much time to frame the rules of the Act which was cleared in 2003? This is the step aimed to win votes of majority community in the election", the leader of the opposition Arjun Modhvadia said.

"The Congress had oppposed this law in 2003 as it violates the fundamental rights of the people" he added.

According to the amendements, among Muslims, a Shia could change his affliance to the Sunni sect and a Protestant could become a Catholic in Christanity.

Sharma had retruned the amendment bill on Tuesday saying it violated the Constitutional right to religious freedom as Jainism and Buddhism are recognised as separate religion in the country.