Plea filed against UP’s ‘love jihad’ law in HC

The petition, filed by advocate Saurabh Kumar, also sought an immediate stay on the operation of the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020, apart from directions to the state government to not take any coercive action against individuals, including registration of FIRs.

The ordinance, said the plea, gives a license to police authorities to terrorise and harass inter-faith couples who want to exercise their right to marry according to their choice, under the guise of “love jihad”, a term used by right-wing activists to describe a relationship between a Muslim man and a Hindu woman.
The ordinance, said the plea, gives a license to police authorities to terrorise and harass inter-faith couples who want to exercise their right to marry according to their choice, under the guise of “love jihad”, a term used by right-wing activists to describe a relationship between a Muslim man and a Hindu woman. (HT Archive)

A lawyer from Uttar Pradesh challenged the constitutional validity of Uttar Pradesh’s controversial ordinance against religious conversions by marriage, coercion or enticement before the Allahabad high court on Friday, arguing that the state had no role to play in the personal choice of individuals in matters of marriage and religion.

The petition, filed by advocate Saurabh Kumar, also sought an immediate stay on the operation of the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020, apart from directions to the state government to not take any coercive action against individuals, including registration of FIRs.

The ordinance, said the plea, gives a license to police authorities to terrorise and harass inter-faith couples who want to exercise their right to marry according to their choice, under the guise of “love jihad”, a term used by right-wing activists to describe a relationship between a Muslim man and a Hindu woman. In February, the central government told Parliament that there was no definition of the term and no such cases were reported by agencies.

“The ordinance, which has completely failed to strike a balance between freedoms and mala fide conversions, has been passed and is being implemented in much haste and reckless manner without ensuring that the same does not curb one’s Fundamental Rights or hamper national integration instead,” added the petition.

The petition came days after a division bench of the high court, in a case of an interfaith marriage, held that the right to live with a person of his/her choice irrespective of religion was intrinsic to the right to life and personal liberty.

The petition, citing this two-judge bench in addition to the Supreme Court’s rulings in the Kerala ‘love-jihad’ case on the need to respect choices and autonomy of adult women and the right to privacy case, contended that the ordinance, which was promulgated on November 28, led to an unreasonable intrusion into the domain of personal autonomy.

According to the lawyer-petitioner, the state government assumed a ‘tone-deaf’ position when it chose to ignore all these pertinent judgments by the constitutional courts and went ahead with promulgating the ordinance.

No date was fixed by the high court to take up this petition. Similar petitions have also been filed in the Supreme Court, which is also yet to examine any of these pleas.

The Uttar Pradesh law outlawed religious conversions by marriage, coercion, deceit or enticement, and prescribed up to 10 years imprisonment for those found guilty. The law – under which at least 30 people have been booked and 10 people arrested — includes a provision to void a marriage if it is solemnised primarily to convert a woman’s faith. The burden of proof is on the person who converted, and those who performed the conversion.

The ordinance was cleared by the state cabinet days after chief minister Yogi Adityanath promised to end “love jihad” in the state.

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