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Gujarat withdraws Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Bill

March 10, 2008 17:04 IST

The Gujarat government on Monday withdrew the controversial Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Bill of 2006, which the governor had returned to the Legislative Assembly for reconsideration in August 2007.

Governor Nawal Kishore Sharma in his message, read out in the assembly by Speaker Ashok Bhatt while returning the Bill, said he found it to be violative of the Article 25 (A) of the Constitution.

Minister of State for Home Amit Shah sought the permission of the House to withdraw the bill.

Raising a point of order, Leader of Opposition Shaktisinh Gohil said a bill cannot be withdrawn at this stage.

However, the speaker rejected his point of order and said that under Rule 148 of the Gujarat Legislative Assembly a bill can be withdrawn at any stage.

The motion to withdraw the bill was put to vote and it was passed unanimously by a voice vote.

The bill proposed to allow conversions among followers of different sects of the same faith as well as between Hindus, Buddhists and Jains.

The government would not have had to intervene if the bill had been passed in case of conversions between followers of the same religion, but different sects eg. Shia to Sunni among Muslims or Protestant to Catholic among Christians.

Similarly, conversion between Hindus, Buddhists and Jains would have been acceptable as the bill had clubbed Buddhism and Jainsim as part of Hinduism.

A person would not have had to seek the permission of the authorities to convert from one sect to another if the bill had been passed.

The Freedom of Religion Act, which was enacted in 2003, makes it mandatory for a person to take permission from the authorities before converting to another religion.

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