PIL challenges UP ‘love jihad’ law in SC, says misuse likely
Two lawyers and a legal researcher have filed a petition in the Supreme Court challenging an ordinance promulgated by the Uttar Pradesh government outlawing religious conversions by way of marriage, arguing that the law could be misused to falsely implicate couples belonging to different faiths who marry out of their free will.
The petition, filed on November 30, also challenged the validity of a 2018 Uttarakhand law that prohibits conversion of religion by way of marriage.
Terming the UP ordinance, promulgated last month and signed by governor Anandiben Patel, and the Uttarakhand law to be against public policy and the society at large, the petition demanded that they be scrapped by the top court for violating the fundamental rights of citizens who decide to marry people who belong to other faiths.
The Uttar Pradesh ordinance outlaws religious conversions by marriage, coercion, deceit or enticement. The law was promulgated about a month after Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath vowed to end “love jihad”, a term used by right-wing activists to describe marital relationships between Muslim men and Hindu women but one that has been rejected by courts and experts. “This ordinance can become a potent tool in the hands of bad elements of the society to... falsely implicate anyone...there are probabilities to falsely implicate persons who are not involved in any such acts and it will be a grave injustice if this ordinance is passed,” said the petition.
The Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020” was promulgated on November 24. The law prescribes a jail term varying between one to five years, in addition to fines of up to Rs 15,000 for those convicted under the law. The jail term goes up to 10 years and fine up to Rs 25,000 for conversions of women belonging to scheduled caste or scheduled tribe communities or who are minors.
Criticizing this law, former Supreme Court judge Madan B Lokur in a recent online lecture on November 29 said: “Giving a backseat to freedom of choice, dignity and human rights, a stringent ordinance related to marriage and forcible conversion has recently been passed in Uttar Pradesh.”
He cited the SC’s 2018 verdict upholding the freedom of choice of an adult woman to marry a person of her choice in the Shafin Jahan v Ashokan KM case of 2018, popularly referred to as the Hadiya case.
The persons behind the petition are advocates Vishal Thakre and Abhay Singh Yadav and law researcher Pranvesh, who is based in Allahabad. This is the first petition to challenge a law on this subject. “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,” the petition said.
Similar laws are being contemplated by BJP-ruled states of Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Haryana and Assam.