SC allows NGO to challenge MP, Himachal anti-conversion laws
The Supreme Court on Wednesday allowed the Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP), a non-government organisation (NGO), to challenge laws against religious conversion passed by Madhya Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh by amending its original plea questioning similar laws passed by Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.
In addition, the court also allowed the Muslim organization Jamait Ulama-i-Hind, to intervene in the proceedings. The organization alleged the laws led to the harassment of a large number of Muslim men and hence there was a need to oppose the legislation.
On January 6 this year, the Supreme Court had issued notice to the Centre and the states of Uttarakhand and UP on two petitions challenging the validity of the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Religious Conversion Ordinance, 2020 and the Uttarakhand Freedom of Religion Act, 2018. One of the petitions was filed by CJP, run by social activist Teesta Setalvad.
The NGO moved an application to amend its petition by including two other similar anti-conversion laws passed by Madhya Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh. Senior advocate CU Singh who appeared for CJP, argued that the application seeks to challenge the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Ordinance, 2020 and the Himachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 2019 which raised similar questions of law relating to violation of fundamental rights.
The application, filed through advocate Aparna Bhatt, stated that both the HP Act and MP Ordinance imposed obligations of “prior intimation, registration, scrutiny, and police enquiries as a precondition to marriage” which are unconscionable and obnoxious and unsustainable under Constitutional scheme.
A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) SA Bobde allowed the application and posted the matter after two weeks. The CJP plea pointed out that the HP law contained provisions which were part of its 2006 law that was struck down by the Himachal Pradesh high court.
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