Karnataka Governor Thaawarchand Gehlot on Tuesday cleared an ordinance brought in by the Bharatiya Janata Party government against forced religious conversions, PTI reported.

An ordinance is a temporary law passed by the president or a governor when Parliament or a state Assembly is not in session.

The state Legislative Assembly had passed the Karnataka Protection of Right to Freedom of Religion Bill, 2021, in December. However, it was not tabled in the Legislative Council, where the BJP lacks majority.

On May 12, the Karnataka Cabinet decided to take the ordinance route to get clearance for the Bill. After Tuesday’s developments, the ordinance needs to be approved by the Assembly within six months or it will cease to be in effect.

The Karnataka anti-conversion bill says that “conversion from one religion to another by misrepresentation, force, fraud, undue influence, coercion, allurement or marriage’’ is prohibited.

Under the Bill, a person who engages in “forced conversion” will be punished with three to five years’ imprisonment. Forced conversions of children, women, persons from Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes will lead to a jail term of three to ten years, and a fine of Rs 50,000.

In recent years, several other states ruled by the BJP such as Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat have passed laws banning forced conversions.

The Bill in Karnataka is more stringent than the ones in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh that have a minimum jail term of one year.

On Tuesday, state Home Minister Araga Jnanendra said the law is not against any religion. He claimed that there is nothing in the legislation that curtails religious rights of citizens. However, the Opposition parties have called it draconian.