UP’s anti-conversion law premised on overturned court verdict, hears HC
The petition requested the court to declare the ordinance beyond the legal remit of the Constitution and sought that the State doesn’t take any action under the new law during the pendency of the petition.
The Allahabad high court on Friday directed the Uttar Pradesh government to file a counter-affidavit to a public interest litigation (PIL) challenging the constitutional validity of the new ordinance against forced and dishonest religious conversions that some right-wingers term as ‘Love Jihad’.
The bench comprising chief justice Govind Mathur and justice Piyush Agrawal passed the order in the PIL filed by Saurabh Kumar, a lawyer. The bench refused to grant any interim relief in the form of a stay order on the ordinance and directed the state government to file a counter-affidavit by January 4, 2021.
The petitioner’s primary contention is that the ordinance impinges upon the fundamental right to choice and the right to change of faith. According to the petitioner, the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020, is morally and constitutionally invalid.
The petitioner requested the court to declare the ordinance ultra vires or beyond the legal remit of the Constitution. Besides, he requested the court to direct the authorities not to take any action under the ordinance during the pendency of the petition.
According to the petition, chief minister Yogi Adityanath had on October 31, 2020, made a statement that his government would bring a law against Love Jihad, a term used by right wingers to allege a conspiracy to convert Hindu women.
During his public statement, the chief minister referred to a single-bench judgment of the Allahabad high court in the case of Priyanshi alias Shamreen and another versus the state of UP, in which the court had observed that religious conversion just for the sake of marriage was invalid.
The petitioner pointed out that a few days later, a division bench of the high court overruled the single bench verdict, which had disapproved of religious conversions for the sake of marriage in the Salamat Ansari and others vs state of UP and others.
The division bench, in this case, held that “the right to live with a person of his/her choice, irrespective of religion professed by them, is intrinsic to the right to life and personal liberty.” The bench had observed this while holding the single-bench judgment as not good in law.
In the light of the division bench ruling, the petitioner has submitted that the impugned ordinance assumes a contrary position to the ruling of the high court in the Salamat Ansari case.
The petitioner submitted that the provisions of the ordinance give the state policing powers over a citizen’s choice of life partner or religion and thus militated against the fundamental rights to individual autonomy, privacy, human dignity and personal liberty guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution (right to life and personal liberty).
The impugned ordinance also requires every religious conversion to be scrutinised and certified by the state.
Taking exception to this, the petitioner has submitted that the very concept of forcing an individual to explain and justify a decision, which is closely personal to him/her, before an officer of the state is contrary to the Constitution of India, which ensures such rights.
The court has fixed January 7 as the next date of hearing in the case.