Muslim body moves SC, seeks to be party in pleas against state laws on religious conversion

The NGO, in the application filed through advocate Ejaj Maqbool, said that in such circumstances, it wishes to raise the issue of fundamental rights of the Muslim youth, who are being targeted and demonized by using the ordinance which itself is unconstitutional

Press Trust of India January 07, 2021 00:20:16 IST
Muslim body moves SC, seeks to be party in pleas against state laws on religious conversion

File image of the Supreme Court of India. Reuters

A Muslim body moved the Supreme Court Wednesday seeking it be made a party in the batch of pleas challenging the constitutional validity of controversial new laws of Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand regulating religious conversions in inter-faith marriages.

The top court earlier in the day, issued notice to the two states, while agreeing to examine the validity of their laws.
Jamiat Ulama-I-Hind in its application said that similar legislations are also being enacted or planned by various other states which also need to be declared unconstitutional.

It has said that the ordinance passed by the Uttar Pradesh government was promulgated in the backdrop of statements issued by the Chief Minister claiming that his government was working to bring a strict law to curb incidents of love jihad.

That as is evident by the statements made by the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, the impugned ordinance was promulgated to curb incidents of love jihad which is a terminology used to describe inter-religious marriages, which they allege involves the conversion of the woman - either by force or guile - to marry a Muslim man, it said.

The NGO, in the application filed through advocate Ejaj Maqbool, said that in such circumstances, it wishes to raise the issue of fundamental rights of the Muslim youth, who are being targeted and demonized by using the ordinance which itself is unconstitutional, being violative of Articles 14, 21 and 25.

It said that the ordinance attempts to regulate a personal decision of each human being by encroaching upon an individual's choice to convert to a religion of his/ her choice and scrutiny by the state of such a personal decision is a grave assault on personal liberty of an individual and is violative of Article 21.

The ordinance makes it a criminal offence to convert a person by offering him/her an allurement, it added.

Though the impugned ordinance seeks to address the mischief of forcible conversion, however it provides that reconversion to a person's previous religion is not illegal, even if it is vitiated by fraud, force, allurement, misrepresentation and so on, the application said.

It added that the impugned ordinance reverses the rule of burden of proof in criminal law and proceeds on the presumption that each religious conversion is illegal.

Further, the Impugned Ordinance puts the burden on the person carrying out the conversion to prove that it is not illegal. The offence of illegal conversion is also cognizable and non-bailable, which means that a police officer can arrest an accused without a warrant and the accused, may or may not be released on bail, at the discretion of the court, it said.

The application said that apart from the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020 and the Uttarakhand Freedom of Religion Act, 2018, state of Himachal Pradesh (Himachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 2019) has also enacted a similar legislation, while a similar legislation is in the pipeline in Madhya Pradesh where the cabinet cleared the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Bill 2020.

The NGO sought impleadment into the pleas filed by advocate Vishal Thakre and others and an NGO Citizen for Justice and Peace'.

The pleas challenged the constitutional validity of the UP ordinance, and the Uttarakhand Act which regulate religious conversions of inter-faith marriages.

The UP ordinance was cleared by the state Cabinet in November and ascent was given by Governor Anandiben Patel on 28 November.

It relates not only to inter-faith marriages but all religious conversions and lays down elaborate procedures for those who wish to convert to another religion.

The Uttarakhand Act entails two year jail term for those found guilty of religious conversion through force or allurement, which can be in cash or in kind --employment or material benefit.

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