A plea challenging the alleged ‘Love Jihad’ laws of Himachal Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh has been preferred by the NGO, Citizens for Justice and Peace in front of the Supreme Court. The original petition by the NGO challenged the anti-conversion laws made by Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand aimed at stopping religious conversions for the sake of marriages.
The NGO has sought permission to amend the original writ petition to include within its plea, the challenge to the Himachal Pradesh law and Madhya Pradesh Ordinance after it was informed that the Himachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 2019 and the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Ordinance, 2020 have also been passed along the lines of the laws that the NGO had challenged initially.
The original plea by the NGO sought to challenge Uttarakhand Freedom of Religion Act, 2018 and the passing of the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020. It has been contended that “The Ordinance passed by the State of Uttar Pradesh and law passed by Uttarakhand are against the public policy and society at large and violates basic structure of the Constitution,”
According to the petitioner, the Indian citizens enjoy the Right to Privacy as a fundamental right and such anti-conversion laws are unconstitutional as they attempt to control the life of the residents of Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, and Madhya Pradesh, and to not allow them to take charge of the significant decisions in their life.
The petitioner has therefore requested addition of the State of Himachal Pradesh and the State of Madhya Pradesh as Respondents to challenge the constitutional validity of the Himachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 2019 and the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Ordinance, 2020.
In this regard, the plea states,
“The impugned Acts and Ordinances impose obligations of prior intimation, registration, scrutiny, and police enquiries as a precondition to marriage, which are utterly unconscionable, and indeed obnoxious and unsustainable under our Constitutional scheme,”
The petition further highlights that the Himachal Act casts a reverse burden of proof upon the person converted, and makes the offences, including the “offence” of getting married, cognizable and non-bailable. This reverse burden of proof goes against the established principles criminal jurisprudence.
“The burden of proof gets shifted and it is dangerous as it is a non bailable offence and also under a circumstance where they are pitched against hostile communities and family members who masquerade in the glory of protection of women,”the petition stated
The instant plea by Citizens of Justice and Peace, which was moved under Article 32 of the Constitution contended that the ordinance and the law are violative of Articles 21 and 25 as such anti-conversion laws empower the State to suppress an individual’s personal liberty and the freedom to practice religion of one’s choice.
The petition also states that the enforcement of the Madhya Pradesh Ordinance comes in the face of harassment of young vulnerable couples whose right to marry any individual on their free will is violated.