Ahmedabad: One week after the Gujarat High Court stayed the operation of certain provisions related to interfaith couples in the Gujarat Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Act, it has now summarily rejected the State Government’s plea to rectify its order.
Stung by the high court rejecting all its pleas in the case, Gujarat’s Minister of State for Home Pradeepsinh Jadeja asserted in a statement on Thursday that, “We have no political agenda, we got this law for the safety of our daughters and sisters. We are going to challenge the high court’s decisions in the Supreme Court.”
Earlier, responding to a rectification application filed by the Gujarat Government, the Court on Thursday ruled, “We don’t find any reason to make any changes in the order.” State Advocate-General Kamal Trivedi was arguing for changes in the stay order on the operation of Section 5. The ruling by the bench led by Chief Justice Vikram Nath came on the day of his elevation to the Supreme Court.
The Advocate-General submitted that Section 5 had little to do with marriages but about the need for district magistrate’s permission to any individual wishing to convert to another religion without force and allurement. With this August 19 stay order, even this provision would not be operational.
To this, the bench of Chief Justice Vikram Nath and Justice Biren Vaishnav pointed out that the stay order was not entirely on Section 5 but on its invocation in the cases of marriage without force or allurement.
Appearing for the petitioner, Senior Advocate Mihir Joshi argued that if Section 5 of the Act was not included in the stay order, then the Court's entire order won't operate and thereby, the Order of the Court becomes unworkable.
He also argued that if somebody wants to get married (inter-religious), the presumption is that it is unlawful unless permission is taken under Section 5. Since the Court has stayed Section 5 only in relation to marriage solemnized between consenting adults, the provision will not be deemed to be stayed for individual conversions, he added.
Explaining the order in a layman’s language, the Chief Justice said, “Supposing X is a bachelor, he wants to convert, he would require permission under Section 5 of the Act, we have not stayed that. Only permission for marriage has been stayed. Read what we said, we said the rigors of Section 3, 4, 4A to 4C, 5, 6, and 6A shall not operate merely because marriage is solemnized by a person of one religion with another religion without force or allurement or fraudulent means and such marriages cannot be termed as marriages for the purposes of unlawful conversion.”
The operative part of the Gujarat High Court’s August 19 order was thus:
“After recording the preliminary submissions and arguments advanced, we have directed as follows. We are therefore of the opinion that pending further hearing, the rigors of Section 3, 4, 4A to 4C, 5, 6, and 6A shall not operate merely because marriage is solemnized by a person of one religion with another religion without force or allurement or fraudulent means and such marriages cannot be termed as marriages for the purposes of unlawful conversion. The above interim order is provided only on the lines of the arguments made by the learned Advocate General Mr Trivedi and to protect the parties of inter-faith marriage from being unnecessarily harassed".
While protecting inter-faith marriages by consenting adults from the rigours of the Gujarat Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Act 2021, the Gujarat High Court, on August 19, prima facie observed that the law "interferes with the intricacies of marriage including the right to the choice of an individual, thereby infringing Article 21 of the Constitution of India".
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