New Delhi: The Gujarat government has decided not to enact the ‘anti-love jihad’ law for now after legal experts opined that it might not be “legally sustainable”, said news reports.
According to a report in the Times of India, citing sources, the state government is not likely to introduce the Bill in the budget session of the assembly which begins from March 1.
“The state government’s internal experts and the advocate general opined neither a new law nor an amendment might be legally sustainable. Legality of similar acts passed by other states have been challenged in the Supreme Court. Except for political calculations, there is very little possibility that the Bill will be introduced in the budget session,” sources told the newspaper.
After BJP-ruled states Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh enacted ‘anti-love jihad laws’, reports said that the Gujarat government was also mulling to bring in a similar law, despite already having an anti-conversion law which prohibits conversion from one religion to another by the use of force or allurement or by fraudulent means.
According to news reports, Gujarat deputy chief minister Nitin Patel had said that representations have already been made before chief minister Vijay Rupani to bring a ‘love jihad’ law similar to the one in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. He had said, “Why do we have to bring laws (to counter) love jihad. Why do our sons and daughters venture out of our culture? Why do people of other religion keep an evil eye on our girls? This is a matter that needs contemplation. At this time, we can do many things. We are trying as well.”
Under Gujarat’s existing law, there’s a provision to penalise a person involved in forced conversion under the pretext of love or marriage. The Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act, 2003 requires a citizen to obtain prior approval from the district authority for conversion.
The law provides for imprisonment up to three years and a fine of up to Rs 50,000 to whoever is found guilty of forced conversion. If the person who has been forced to convert is a minor, a woman or a person belonging to scheduled caste or scheduled tribe, the maximum imprisonment has been fixed at four years and a fine of up to Rs 1 lakh.
According to an Indian Express report, in December 2020, the Gujarat Police “intervened” in a situation related to an interfaith marriage in the Nagarwada area. Two groups belonging to two different communities had gathered in the police station to protest the marriage of a Muslim man with a Hindu woman. According to the police, the couple married each other with the consent of the district collector.
However, the couple was sent to their respective families to avoid a law and order situation. Added to that, local political leaders alleged that it was a case of “love jihad” and demanded action, the report said.
Last year, several protests took place across the country on the issue of ‘love jihad,’ a term coined by Sangh parivar outfits to describe an imaginary Muslim conspiracy to convert unsuspecting Hindu women to Islam. So far, several detentions and arrests have been made under the ordinance, and several of them have affected consenting interfaith couples.