Prayagraj: The Allahabad High Court has issued notice on a plea challenging the Constitutional validity of Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Act, 2021.
A bench led by acting Chief Justice Munishwar Nath Bhandari on Monday tagged the plea with other pending petitions and listed it after three weeks.
Two public interest litigations were already filed against the conversion law. All the petitions, including the new one, are now expected to be heard in the next hearing.
The plea was moved by one, Anand Malviya (petitioner) through advocate Shadan Farasat and Talha Abdul Rahman.
Malviya, a retired government servant who had served as the senior statistical officer at the National Sample Survey office of Government of India, contended that the law is against the secular character of the Constitution and infringes upon freedom of choice and freedom of religion.
He submitted that the law, essentially, seeks to negate the present constitutional position, and coerce individuals belonging to different faiths to seek 'permission' from the State before marrying and, as a logical extension, having children together.
The Act is a thinly disguised attempt at fanning the flames of communalism, and seeks to divide society on ethnic and religious lines, the plea said.
The petitioner also highlighted how a Special Investigation Team (SIT) was constituted in Kanpur, after cases of inter-religious marriages had surfaced but found no large-scale conspiracy.
"The SIT did not find any large-scale conspiracy of 'love jihad'. Ironically, the footnote text in the enactment as gazetted refers to the impugned ordinance as 'Love Jihad'. It is a matter of record that the SIT probe did not find any solid proof that the accused worked in an organised manner as part of a conspiracy," the petition stated.
The matter will be heard again on October 5 along with other connected petitions.
What does the 'love jihad law say
Under the Uttar Pradesh anti-conversion law, passed on November 28 last year, interfaith couples must now give two months’ notice to a district official before getting married. Currently, under the Special Marriages Act, 1954, such interfaith couples must give a 30-day notice.
The new law also includes a jail term of up to ten years if it is proved and the person is convicted of using marriage to force a spouse to change their faith. Parents, siblings and “any relatives” by marriage and adoption can complain. Such marriages can also be nullified. The burden of proof lies on the persons converting, or those counselling the persons to convert, to prove the conversion isn’t forced.
Eight of 29 states of India now have anti-conversion laws, including these interfaith marriage clauses. These laws seek to regulate religious conversions through “forcible or fraudulent means”, or through “allurement” or “inducement”.
Earlier, the Supreme Court refused to entertain a plea by the Uttar Pradesh government to transfer all the petitions pending in the Allahabad High Court against Anti-Conversion Ordinance passed by the state.
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