- Apprentice Lawyer
A plea has been filed in the Supreme Court challenging the Constitutional validity of the Uttarakhand Freedom of Religion Act, 2018 and Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020 which regulate religious conversion and inter-faith marriages.
The petition by Mumbai based Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) under Article 32 of the Constitution states that both the legislations violate Articles 21 and 25 as it empowers the State to suppress an individual’s personal liberty and the freedom to practice religion of one's choice.
The Uttarakhand and UP law essentially bars conversion to any other religion for the purposes of marriage.
The controversial ordinance titled, Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020 (Uttar Pradesh Vidhi Virudh Dharma Samparivartan Pratishedh Adhyadhesh, 2020 in Hindi) was cleared by the State Cabinet in November and was signed off by the State Governor, Anandiben Patel on November 28.
It has been a subject of intense debate due to the implications it could have on inter-faith marriages.
However, the ordinance governs not just inter-faith marriages but all religious conversions and lays down elaborate procedure for any person who wishes to convert to another religion.
The petitioner organization has submitted that Act and ordinance seemed to be premised on conspiracy theories and assume that all conversions are illegally forced upon individuals though they have attained the age of majority.
Further, the petition contends that by these laws, right to privacy of the people of Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh has been takenby preventing them from taking "significant decisions in their life."
"The Act and the ordinance allow for unnecessary intrusion into the lives of people who have their autonomy compromised by the State," the plea reads.
The petition submits that the right to convert oneself to another religion is manifested in Article 25 of the Constitution.
"The Ordinance and the Act impinge upon this right by imposing unreasonable and discriminatory restrictions on it by mandating that the administration be informed of such intention and a probe be launched in such a personal and intimate exercise of one’s right," says the plea.
The plea also highlights that the UP ordinance casts the burden of proof on the accused against the established criminal jurisprudence.
"The burden of proof gets shifted and it is dangerous as it is a non bailable offence and also under a circumstance where they are pitched against hostile communities and family members who masquerade in the glory of protection of women," the petitioner has submitted.