Sunday, March 9, 2008

Gujarat to withdraw Freedom of Religion Amendment Bill

8 Mar 2008, PTI

AHMEDABAD: The Gujarat government has decided to withdraw the controversial Freedom of Religion Amendment Bill 2006 after Governor Nawal Kishor Sharma returned it to the Assembly for reconsideration.

The bill will be withdrawn by the government in the Assembly on Monday, official sources said.

The bill proposed to allow conversions among different sects of the same faith as well as among Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.

Analysts say the government might not have to intervene in case of conversion of Shias to Sunnis among Muslims or Protestants to Catholics among Christians.

Significantly, the same yardstick was applied to conversion among Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism as the bill had said that Buddhism and Jainism are part of Hinduism.

With this amendment, a person did not have to seek permission of authorities to convert from one sect to another.

There was a furore at the national level following the passing of the bill in the Assembly. Jains and other religions had protested saying this was a violation of Article 25 of the Constitution, which gives freedom of religion.

Governor Sharma had returned the bill to the Assembly last August after analysis.

The government has decided to just withdraw the amendment, while the original law passed in 2003 will remain in force, the sources said.

The original Freedom of Religion Bill makes it mandatory for a person to take permission from authorities before converting to another religion.

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