SC Agrees to Examine Constitutionality of ‘Love Jihad’ Laws But Refuses Stay, to Hear Matter in 4 Weeks

The Supreme Court Wednesday agreed to examine controversial new laws of Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand regulating religious conversions due to inter-faith marriages.

A bench headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde refused, however, to stay the controversial provisions of the laws and issued notices to both state governments on two different petitions. The pleas, filed by advocate Vishal Thakre and others and an NGO Citizen for Justice and Peace, have challenged the constitutional validity of the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Religious Conversion Ordinance, 2020 and the Uttarakhand Freedom of Religion Act, 2018 which regulate religious conversions of inter-faith marriages.

At the outset, the top court asked the petitioners to approach the Allahabad High Court after Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said that it is already seized of the matter. The bench said that this is not the transfer petition where it can transfer to itself all the cases on the law after one of the petitioner said that the issue should be examined by the top court.

Senior advocate CU Singh, appearing for the NGO, referred to the judgement of Justice (retd) Deepak Gupta and says that similar laws are being made in various states. Singh added that some of the provisions of these laws are oppressive and horrible in nature and requires prior consent of government to marry which is absolutely obnoxious. The bench said that it is issuing notice and sought response from both the state governments within four weeks. When Singh insisted for stay of provisions, the CJI said that now stay is sought on some provisions without hearing the states. How can it be done, the bench asked.

‘Love Jihad’ is a conspiracy theory touted by right-wing groups under which they claim Muslim men ‘forcibly convert’ women of other religions under the ‘guise’ of love.

In UP, the law provides for a jail term of up to 10 years for any violations. Under the law, which deals with different categories of offences, a marriage will be declared “null and void” if the conversion of a woman is solely for that purpose. The onus to prove that the conversion has not been done forcibly will lie on the accused and the convert.

Amore stringent law against conversion by force, inducement or through marriages solemnised for the sole purpose of adopting a new religion, with a provision of up to seven years in jail for violators, has come into force in BJP-ruled Himachal Pradesh, over a year after it was passed by the state assembly.

In MP, the ‘Freedom of Religion Bill 2020’ was approved by the cabinet in a meeting chaired by Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan. The bill has provision for up to ten-year jail term and a fine of up to Rs 1 lakh for those accused of converting women on the pretext of marriage.

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