The legal validity of the laws against unlawful conversions in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand will be examined by the Supreme Court, which issued notice to the two state governments today. The court’s decision came in response to a bunch of petitions which challenged the validity of the law, contending that they disturb the basic structure of the Constitution, and demanded that they be struck down as they violate secularism, equality and non-discrimination.
The Uttar Pradesh government’s Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance 2020 and the Uttarakhand Freedom of Religion Act, 2018, prohibit forceful prohibition of conversion for the purposes of marriage.
Initially, the court was reluctant to examine the issue and asked the petitioners to approach High Courts. “The challenge is pending before Allahabad and Uttarakhand High Courts. Why cannot you go there?” said Chief Justice of India SA Bobde.
In response, senior counsel CU Singh, who was presenting the petitioner Citizens for Justice and Peace, said the matter should be looked into by the top court as “multiple states are passing these laws”.
“Madhya Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh also passed these laws,” Mr Singh said, arguing that a 10-year jail term is prescribed under this law and the burden of proof is on the accused. Seeking a notice to stay the laws, he said certain provisions are “horrifying” and the clause of prior permission to marry is “obnoxious”.
Another petitioner argued that the Supreme Court can call in these cases from the High Courts and examine it.
One of the pleas maintain the law is an “illusory construct” based on rhetoric to promote divisiveness in society, generate permanent suspicious attitudes towards Islam and the Muslim community and create enmity between communities and breach harmony.
The petition has also raised issues over privacy, excessive constitutional powers to the police.
“We are issuing notice,” Chief Justice Bobde said, adding that the matter would be taken up after four weeks.