SC Turns Down UP Govt's Application to Transfer Pleas Challenging 'Love Jihad' Law to Itself

"If the Allahabad high court is seized of it, we are not going to hear before it, why should we stop the HC?"

New Delhi: The Supreme Court has refused the Uttar Pradesh government’s plea to transfer to the apex court all petitions challenging the ‘love jihad’ ordinance filed in the Allahabad high court.

“If the Allahabad high court is going to decide the cases, why should we interfere?” a bench headed by Chief Justice of India S.A. Bobde was quoted by LiveLaw as having said.

The Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Religious Conversion Ordinance, 2020, brought by the Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh, attempts to criminalise forced religious conversion on paper. However, it has in reality been used to give legal credence to rightwing Hindutva groups’ claim of ‘love jihad’ – an imagined conspiracy by Muslim men to marry and convert unsuspecting Hindu women.

So far, several detentions and arrests have been made under the ordinance, and several of them have affected consenting interfaith couples.

Also read: ‘My Boy Is Mentally Unstable Minor’: Mother of Muslim Teen Accused of ‘Love Jihad’ in UP

Faced with several pleas from interfaith couples and women coerced into living with her parents who are against an interfaith match, the Allahabad high court has given rulings favourable to such couples in over 200 cases since the ordinance was brought.

In the month of November, 2020, alone the Allahabad high court had granted protection to 125 interfaith couples. In the same month, the court denounced a previous single-judge bench decision that religious conversions only for the sake of marriage are unacceptable, saying that decision was “bad in law”.

On January 6, an apex court bench headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde and comprising Justices V. Ramasubramanian and A.S. Bopanna had refused to stay the ‘love jihad’ laws brought by Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, while hearing petitions challenging the laws’ constitutional validity, by advocate Vishal Thakre and others and an NGO run by Teesta Setalvad, ‘Citizen for Justice and Peace’.

On the day as well, the top court had asked the petitioners to approach the Allahabad high court. However, the apex court had issued notices and sought response from both the state governments within four weeks after the petitioners said that the matter should be heard by the apex court.

Also read: Woman’s Autonomy Can’t Be Denied Under the Garb of Protection: Petition Opposes UP Ordinance

In the meantime, reports LiveLaw, the Uttar Pradesh government filed a counter-affidavit before the Allahabad high court and requested Chief Justice Govind Mathur to adjourn the matter sine die, citing that the apex court had already taken up the matter.

The Supreme Court bench, on January 25 remarked, “We have issued notice does not mean [that] high court cannot decide. People are making light of high courts these days. High court is a constitutional court.”

“If the Allahabad high court is seized of it, and we are not going to hear before it, why should we stop the HC? We would like to have the judgment of the high court also,” the bench told Additional Solicitor General P.S. Narasimha, who had urged the apex court to allow the Uttar Pradesh government’s transfer application.

Several public interest litigations challenging the law are listed for hearing by the Allahabad high court today, January 25 as well.