admin_2 - December 2, 2010

By Chakshu Rai and Anirudh Burman What is the difference between a JPC and a PAC? A structured committee system was introduced in 1993 to provide for greater scrutiny of government functioning by Parliament. Most committees of Parliament include MPs from both the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. A Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) is an ad-hoc body. It is set up for a specific object and duration. Joint committees are set up by a motion passed in one house of Parliament and agreed to by the other. The details regarding membership and subjects are also decided by Parliament. For example, the motion to constitute a JPC on the stock market scam (2001) and pesticide residues in soft drinks (2003) was moved by the government in the Lok Sabha. The motion on the stock market scam constituted a JPC of 30 members of which 20 were from the Lok Sabha and 10 were from the Rajya Sabha. The motion to constitute the JPC on pesticides included 10 members from the Lok Sabha and 5 from the Rajya Sabha. The terms of reference for the JPC on the stock market scam asked the committee to look into financial irregularities, to fix responsibility on persons and institutions for the scam, to identify regulatory loopholes and also to make suitable recommendations. The Public Accounts Committee (PAC), however, is constituted every year. Its main duty is to ascertain how the money granted (budget) by Parliament has been spent by the government. The PAC scrutinises the accounts of the government on the basis of CAG reports. The composition and functions of the committee are governed by parliamentary procedures. The PAC can consist of 15 to 22 members. Not more than 15 members can be from the Lok Sabha, and the representation from the Rajya Sabha cannot exceed 7 members. A minister cannot be a member of the PAC. What can a JPC do that a PAC cannot? The PAC examines cases involving losses and financial irregularities. Its examination is usually limited to the scrutiny of CAG reports and issues raised by the reports. The committee expresses no opinion on points of general policy, but it is within PAC’s jurisdiction to point out whether there has been waste in carrying out that policy. The mandate of a JPC depends on the motion constituting it. This need not be limited to the scrutiny of government finances. How many JPCs have we had so far? Although a number of joint committees have been formed since Independence, four major JPCs have been formed to investigate significant issues that have caused controversy. These are: (1) Joint Committee on Bofors Contracts; (2) Joint Committee to enquire into irregularities in securities and banking transactions; (3) Joint Committee on stock-market scam; and (4) Joint Committee on pesticide residues in and safety standards for soft drinks. How effective have JPCs been? Is the government bound by their recommendations? JPC recommendations have persuasive value but the committee cannot force the government to take any action on the basis of its report. The government may decide to launch fresh investigations on the basis of a JPC report. However, the discretion to do so rests entirely with the government. The government is required to report on the follow-up action taken on the basis of the recommendations of the JPC and other committees. The committees then submit ‘Action Taken Reports’ in Parliament on the basis of the government’s reply. These reports can be discussed in Parliament and the government can be questioned on the basis of the same. How effective is the PAC process? Between 2005 and 2010, the PAC has prepared 54 reports and examined ministries that have cumulatively received around 80% of the budgetary allocations in the last five financial years. Since it is not possible to examine every CAG audit finding in a formal manner, ministries have to submit Action Taken Notes to the PAC on all audit paragraphs. A 2009-10 report of the PAC, however, noted that there were 4,934 audit paragraphs still pending with various ministries. What can the JPC or the PAC find in the 2G case that is not already known, that the CAG and the Trai have not already said? The JPC or the PAC can only look at the documents and examine ministry officials who testify before the committee. The parliamentary committees can arrive at independent conclusions based on the documents placed before them. Members of the committee can also place dissent notes if they do not agree with the majority. Can Raja be tried and the telecom licences cancelled on basis of a JPC report or do we need a CBI report as well? Prosecution of individuals and cancellation of licences are executive functions and can only be initiated by the government. A JPC report can recommend the prosecution of a particular person or the cancellation of certain licences. However, the government can disagree with the JPC’s findings and refuse to take such action. How much of Parliament time have we lost already and how many critical Bills are stuck? The Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha are supposed to work daily for six hours and five hours, respectively. The Lok Sabha has worked for five hours and forty five minutes and Rajya Sabha has worked for an hour and twenty five minutes in the past 12 days. Some important Bills that are listed for consideration and passing in Parliament are the Seeds Bill, 2004; the Commercial Division of High Courts Bill, 2009; and the Amendment to the Right to Education Act, 2010. Bills listed for introduction include the National Identification Authority Bill, 2010; the Protection of Women from Sexual Harassment in Workplace Bill, 2010; the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill, 2010; Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill; and the Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill. This article appeared in Financial Express.

Yesterday, the Governor of Karnataka promulgated the Karnataka Protection of Right to Freedom of Religion Ordinance, 2022.  The Ordinance prohibits forced religious conversions.  A Bill with the same provisions as the Ordinance was passed by the Karnataka Legislative Assembly in December 2021.   The Bill was pending introduction in the Legislative Council. 

In the recent past, Haryana (2022), Madhya Pradesh (2021), and Uttar Pradesh (2021) have passed laws regulating religious conversions.  In this blog post, we discuss the key provisions of the Karnataka Ordinance and compare it with existing laws in other states (Table 2). 

What religious conversions does the Karnataka Ordinance prohibit?

The Ordinance prohibits forced religious conversions through misrepresentation, coercion, allurement, fraud, or the promise of marriage.  Any person who converts another person unlawfully will be penalised, and all offences will be cognizable and non-bailable.  Penalties for attempting to forcibly convert someone are highlighted in Table 1.  If an institution (such as an orphanage, old age home, or NGO) violates the provisions of the Ordinance, the persons in charge of the institution will be punished as per the provisions in Table 1.   

Table 1: Penalties for forced conversion 

Conversion of


Fine (in Rs)

Any person through specified means

3-5 years


Minor, woman, SC/ST, or a person of unsound mind

3-10 years 


Two or more persons (Mass conversion)

3-10 years 


Sources: Karnataka Protection of Right to Freedom of Religion Ordinance, 2022; PRS.

Re-converting to one’s immediate previous religion will not be considered a conversion under the Ordinance.   Further, any marriage done for the sole purpose of an unlawful conversion will be prohibited, unless the procedure for religious conversion is followed.  

How may one convert their religion?

As per the Ordinance, a person intending to convert their religion is required to send a declaration to the District Magistrate (DM), before and after a conversion ceremony takes place.  The pre-conversion declaration must be submitted by both parties (the person converting their religion, and the religious converter), at least 30 days in advance.  The Ordinance prescribes penalties for both parties for failing to follow procedure.

After receiving the pre-conversion declarations, the DM will notify the proposed religious conversion in public, and invite objections to the proposed conversion for a period of 30 days.  Once a public objection is recorded, the DM will order an enquiry to prove the cause, purpose, and genuine intent of the conversion.  If the enquiry finds that an offence has been committed, the DM may initiate criminal action against the convertor.  A similar procedure is specified for a post-conversion declaration (by the converted person).  

Note that among other states, only Uttar Pradesh requires a post-conversion declaration and a pre-conversion declaration.

After the religious conversion has taken place, the converted person must submit a post-conversion declaration to the DM, within 30 days of the conversion.  Further, the converted person must also appear before the DM to confirm their identity and the contents of the declaration.   If no complaints are received during this time, the DM will notify the conversion, and inform concerned authorities (employer, officials of various government departments, local government bodies, and heads of educational institutions).  

Who may file a complaint?

Similar to laws in other states, any person who has been unlawfully converted, or a person associated to them by blood, marriage, or adoption may file a complaint against an unlawful conversion.   Laws in Haryana and Madhya Pradesh allow certain people (those related by blood, adoption, custodianship, or marriage) to file complaints, after seeking permission from the Court.  Note that the Karnataka Ordinance allows colleagues (or any associated person) to file a complaint against an unlawful conversion.


*In Chirag Singhvi v. State of Rajasthan, the Rajasthan High Court framed guidelines to regulate religious conversions in the state.