Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind moved the Supreme Court on Thursday challenging the anti-conversion laws enacted by the States of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh.
The plea, which is a public interest litigation (PIL) petition, was filed challenging the constitutional validity of:
- Uttar Pradesh Prohibition Of Unlawful Conversion Of Religion Act, 2021
- Uttarakhand Freedom Of Religion Act, 2018
- Himachal Pradesh Freedom Of Religion Act, 2019
- Madhya Pradesh Freedom Of Religion Act, 2021
- Gujarat Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Act, 2021.
The plea, filed through advocate Ejaz Maqbool, contended that the laws are a means to "harass" inter-faith couples and implicate them in criminal cases.
The PIL stated that provisions of all the five acts force a person to disclose his/ her faith and, thereby, invade the privacy of a person.
"It is submitted that the compulsory disclosure of one’s religion in any form amounts to violation of the right to manifest his/her beliefs as the said right includes the right not to manifest one’s beliefs," the petition said.
Further, the provisions of the five Acts entitle the family members of persons entering into inter-faith marriage to lodge a first information report (FIR), virtually giving them a fresh tool for harassing a convert.
"It is submitted that the Acts are being misused by the disgruntled family members which is evident from the fact that as per a news report published by India Today on December 29, 2020 within one month of the Uttar Pradesh Ordinance (which was subsequently replaced by an Act), 14 cases were registered out of which only 2 were based on complaints by the victims and rest of the cases arose out of the complaints by family members," the petition stated.
It was also Jamiat's argument that all the Acts are liable to be set aside for defining ‘allurement’ to include undue influence.
"It is submitted that the phrase ‘undue influence’ is too wide and vague and the same can be used to prosecute any person who is in a stronger position vis-a-vis the converted person," the plea said.
Petitions are already pending before various High Courts and the Supreme Court challenging some of these laws and ordinances that preceded them.
On Wednesday, while hearing a bunch of cases challenging the Himachal and Madhya Pradesh laws, CJI DY Chandrachud led bench had indicated that it will have to take a call on whether all the cases pending before several High Courts challenging the acts should be transferred to the Supreme Court.