New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday, January 6, agreed to examine the ‘love jihad’ laws brought by the Bharatiya Janata Party governments of Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.
A bench headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde and comprising Justices V. Ramasubramanian and A.S. Bopanna refused, however, to stay the controversial provisions of the laws and issued notices to both state governments on two different petitions.
The laws attempt to regulate religious conversions necessitated by inter-faith marriages, giving legal sanction to the Sangh parivar’s bogey of ‘love jihad’, an imaginary conspiracy of Muslims to convert unsuspecting Hindu women.
The pleas, filed by advocate Vishal Thakre and others and an NGO run by Teesta Setalvad, ‘Citizen for Justice and Peace’, have challenged the constitutional validity of the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Religious Conversion Ordinance, 2020 and the Uttarakhand Freedom of Religion Act, 2018 which regulate religious conversions of inter-faith marriages.
At the outset, the top court asked the petitioners to approach the Allahabad high court after Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said that it is already seized of the matter.
After one of the petitioners said that the issue should be examined by the top court, the bench said that this is not a transfer petition where it can transfer to itself all the cases on the law
Senior advocate C.U. Singh, appearing for the NGO, referred to the judgement of retired Justice Deepak Gupta and said that similar laws were being made in various states.
He sought a stay of the provisions of the law and said that people are being “lifted” by authorities in the middle of wedding ceremonies.
Some of the provisions of these laws are oppressive and horrible in nature and require prior consent of the government to marry which was “absolutely obnoxious”, Singh added.
LiveLaw has reported that after repeated persuasion by Singh and advocate Pradeep Kumar Yadav (who was appearing in a connected matter), the CJI changed his mind. The lawyers also told the Supreme Court that a similar law had been brought in Madhya Pradesh and one was on its way in Haryana.
The bench said that it was issuing notices and sought response from both the state governments within four weeks.
When Singh insisted for a stay of provisions, the CJI said that without hearing the states a stay cannot be given.
“You are asking for a relief which we cannot entertain under Article 32. Whether provision is arbitrary or oppressive needs to be seen. This is the problem when you come directly to the Supreme Court,” the CJI was quoted by LiveLaw as having said.
It has been a month since Uttar Pradesh brought its ordinance and there has been a spate of FIRs and dubious arrests since it was brought. Only in two of the cases were women themselves the complainants.
A particularly harrowing incident took place in Uttar Pradesh’s Moradabad district where a 22-year-old Hindu woman miscarried as in the aftermath of her forced stay at a women’s shelter. The woman’s Muslim husband was arrested along with his brother, even though the concerned woman repeatedly said she was an adult and had married of her own volition.