New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday declined to put a stay on the controversial new laws enacted by Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand regulating religious conversions due to inter-faith marriages. Hearing pleas against the love jihad law, the Supreme Court, however, issued notices to the two state governments on two different petitions challenging the love jihad ordinance in Uttar Pradesh and Freedom of Religion Act, 2018 in Uttarakhand. Also Read - UPSC Prelims: Will Aspirants Get an Extra Attempt? Check Central Govt's Decision
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. Also Read - Sandalwood Drugs Case: Ragini Dwivedi Granted Bail by Supreme Court
A bench headed by Chief Justice S. A. Bobde agreed to examine the validity of legislations, ‘The Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion Of Religion Ordinance, 2020’ and the ‘Uttarakhand Freedom Of Religion Act, 2018’, and issued notice to the two state governments. The top court has sought response within four weeks. Also Read - Supreme Court Sends Notice to Mirzapur Makers, Amazon Prime Video
The counsel petitioners – Vishal Thakre and others, and NGO Citizens for Justice and Peace – during the hearing stressed for a stay on these ‘love jihad’ laws and termed the provisions as “oppressive” and “obnoxious”.
The bench also comprising Justices A.S. Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian replied that it would have been ideal if the petitioners had moved the respective High Courts instead of coming to the Supreme court. The Chief Justice said the challenge to the law is already pending in High Courts and asked the petitioners to go there. “We are not saying you have a bad case, but approach the High Court in first instance, instead of coming here”, observed the bench.
At the outset, the top court also asked the petitioners to approach the Allahabad High Court after Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said that it was already seized of the matter.
Senior advocate C U Singh, appearing for the NGO, referred to the judgement of Justice (retd) Deepak Gupta and said that similar laws were being made in various states. He sought a stay on the provisions of the law and said that people were being “lifted” by authorities in the middle of wedding ceremonies.
Some provisions of these laws are “oppressive and horrible” in nature and require prior consent of the government to marry which is “absolutely obnoxious”, Singh added.
When Singh insisted on stay of the provisions, CJI Bobde said it was being sought without the states being heard. How can it be done?
The Uttar Pradesh Ordinance was cleared by the state Cabinet in November and ascent was given by Governor Anandiben Patel on November 28. It relates not only to inter-faith marriages but all religious conversions and lays down elaborate procedures for those who wish to convert to another religion.
The Uttarakhand Act entails two year jail term for those found guilty of religious conversion through force or allurement , which can be in cash or in kind –employment or material benefit.
Thakre and others said they are aggrieved by the ordinance which curtails the fundamental rights of the citizens provided in the Constitution.
Their plea said the laws passed by Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand against Love Jihad’ and punishments thereof may be declared ultra vires and null and void, because it disturbs the basic structure of the Constitution as laid down by the Law.
It said the ordinance passed by Uttar Pradesh and the law passed by Uttarakhand is against the public policy and society at large.
Besides seeking to declare the laws as null and void, the plea sought direction to the two states to not to give effect to impugned provisions/ordinance and withdraw the same.
The plea Citizen for Justice and Peace’ said that both the legislations violate Articles 21 and 25, as it empowers the State to suppress an individual’s personal liberty and the freedom to practice religion of one’s choice.
It mandates that a series of complicated procedures to be followed before and after conversion, taking the State into confidence to ensure that the act was an informed and voluntary decision by the individual, the plea said.
The Mumbai-based NGO further said that the UP ordinance casts the burden of proof on the accused against the established criminal jurisprudence.
The plea by the NGO also sought direction to declare both the laws of the States as ultra vires of the constitution.
(With Agency Inputs)