‘Love jihad’ laws of UP, Uttarakhand challenged in SC by NGO Citizens for Justice and Peace
The NGO contends that the laws violate Article 21 of Constitution as they empower the State to suppress an individual’s personal liberty and impinge upon an individual’s right to freedom of religion
Mumbai-based NGO Citizens for Justice and Peace has filed a public interest litigation (PIL) in the Supreme Court challenging the constitutional validity of the laws passed by the states of Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh on religious conversions in the name of "love jihad", officially called Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance 2020 and the Uttarakhand Freedom of Religion Act, 2018, ostensibly prohibiting forceful prohibition of conversion for the purposes of marriage.
The Petitioner-organization has contended that the provisions of the impugned Act and Ordinance both violate Article 21 of the Constitution as it empowers the State to suppress an individual's personal liberty and impinge upon an individual's right to freedom of choice and right to freedom of religion, Live Law has reported.
"The Act and Ordinance seemed to be premised on conspiracy theories and assume that all conversions are illegally forced upon individuals who may have attained the age of majority. It mandates that a series of complicated procedures to be followed before and after conversion, taking the State into confidence to "ensure" that the act was an informed and voluntary decision by the individual. These provisions in both the impugned Act and Ordinance place a burden on individuals to justify their personal decisions for State approval," it has submitted.
The Act and Ordinance are also said to be opposed to individuals' right to privacy in as much as individuals have to approach the District Magistrate to validate their conversion for purpose of marriage or otherwise.
It is further submitted that the "right to convert" oneself to another religion is manifested in Article 25 of the Constitution. However, the Ordinance and the Act impinge upon this right by imposing unreasonable and discriminatory restrictions on it by mandating that the administration be informed of such intention and a probe be launched in such a personal and intimate exercise of one's right.
The laws are also said to be antithetical to right to equality and right against discrimination under Articles 14, 15 and 16 of the Constitution because under the said Act and Ordinance, only residents of Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand will be subject to such inquiry and State intervention if and when they decide to convert from one faith to the other.
The Petitioner-organization has referred to the Law Commission's 235th report titled 'Conversion/ reconversion to another religion - mode of proof' where it stated that "The reason for or propriety of conversion cannot be judged from the standards of rationality or reasonableness."
A group of lawyers from Delhi, namely Vishal Thakre, Abhay Singh Yadav and Pranvesh, have already challenged the validity of these laws before the top court. The PIL prays that these laws made in the name of "love jihad" be declared null and void because "they disturb the basic structure of the Constitution".
A writ petition has also been filed before the Allahabad High Court challenging the UP Government's Ordinance.