A PIL has been filed in the Supreme Court challenging the laws passed by the states of Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh on religious conversions in the name of “love jihad”.
The lawyers practicing in Delhi challenged the constitutionality of the recently promulgated Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unwlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance 2020 and the Uttarakhand Freedom of Religion Act, 2018.
Contentions in the Plea challenging the law on religious conversions
The PIL prays that these pieces of law on religious conversion made in the name of “love jihad” be declared null and void because “they disturb the basic structure of the Constitution”. It is averred that our Constitution has given citizens of India the fundamental rights which also includes the rights of minorities and other backward communities.
The petitioner states that the Ordinance can become a “potent tool in the hands of bad elements of the society to use this ordinance to falsely implicate anyone in this ordinance and there are probabilities of falsely implicate persons who are not involved in any such acts and it will be a grave injustice if this ordinance is passed”.
Implementation of these laws will “harm public at a large and will create a chaotic situation in the society”, states the petition.
In this context, the plea seeks issuance of a writ of Mandamus directing/ declaring the provisions of the Ordinances to be ultra vires and directions to not give effect to the Ordinance passed by the concerned State Governments.
Additionally, the plea has sought issuance of directions to the Centre and concerned States directing them not to give effect to impugned provisions/ordinance and withdraw the same or in the alternative, modify the said bill.
Judgment challenging religious conversions for marriage termed as ‘Bad in Law’
Recently, the Allahabad High Court declared as bad law the judgments which had held that religious conversions only for the sake of marriage are invalid. Former Supreme Court judge, Justice M B Lokur, recently criticized the UP Ordinance as “putting on the backseat the freedom of choice and dignity”.
Provisions in Legislations
With an intention to bring a law on religious conversions, Uttarakhand govt. had enacted Uttarakhand Freedom of Religion Act in 2018 with the stated objective “to provide freedom of religion by prohibition of conversion from one religion to another by misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, allurement or by any fraudulent means or by marriage and for the matters incidental thereto”.
If any person comes back to his “ancestral religion”, it shall not be deemed conversion under the Act, as per proviso to Section 3.
As per Section 6 of the Act, marriages done for sole purpose of conversion can be declared null and void on a petition filed by either party to the marriage.
In the latest UP Ordinance, Section 3 prohibits one person from converting the religion of another person by marriage. In another words, religious conversion by marriage is made unlawful. Violation of this provision is punishable with imprisonment for a term which is not less than one year but which may extend up to 5 years and a fine of minimum rupees fifteen thousand. If the person converted happens to be a woman, the punishment is double the normal term and fine.