ISLAMABAD: Keeping in view the recent incidents of forced conversion of Hindu girls, the National Assembly Standing Committee on National Harmony on Monday stressed the need for legislation on the issue and establishment of a commission to find out the incidents where force was involved.
The committee said that the Ministry of National Harmony might seek legal opinion on the subject from the Ministry of Law in order to avoid contradiction or overlapping with the existing legislation. In that regard, the National Assembly Committee on National Harmony in its meeting held in May 2012 decided that each member of the committee shall furnish a draft proposal on legislation regarding forced conversions. Minority MNA Reena Kumari presented a draft of amendments in the PPC, with insertion of some sections to stop forced conversions of religion.
The proposed draft requires some legal changes. The draft reveals that conversion to another religion of any person who is a minor or under the age of 18 shall be treated as a forcible conversion and shall be punishable unless the parents of the minor have consented to such conversion.
Section 365C of the proposed draft also reveals that whoever kidnaps any person with intent that such person may be compelled, or knowing it to be likely that such person will be compelled to convert against his or her will, or in order that such person may be forced or seduced or induced to marriage after forcible conversion, or knowing it to be likely that such person may be forced or induced for forced conversion to any other religion, shall be punished with imprisonment of life and shall also be liable to fine. And whoever by means of criminal intimidation as defined in the code of abuse of authority, or any other method of compulsion, induces any person to go from any place with an intent that such person may be, or knowing that it is likely that such person may be forced or induced to forcible conversion to any other religion, shall also be punishable.
The proposed draft further reveals that no court shall have the jurisdiction of recording the statement of such person or quashing the case or proceedings until and unless the commission, as defined under the code, has made an order in writing regarding such conversion (forcible or otherwise) of religion.
Mahesh Kumar Malani chaired the committee and directed the Ministry of National Harmony to ask from the Law Division about the legality of establishment of the commission.
The Supreme Court also gave some directions in that regard, which should also be sent to the Law Division, the members said. The committee was also informed that there already existed a commission for minorities, and question was raised about what would be the difference between the proposed commission and the one that already existed. Officials from the Ministry of National Harmony informed the committee that the proposed commission would be backed by law, while the one that already existed did not have a legal status.