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Plea to challenge ‘Love Jihad’ Laws in the Supreme Court

NEW DELHI, DEC 18: A PIL has been filed in the Supreme Court by a Mumbai based NGO, Citizens for Justice and Peace, to challenge the constitutional validity of the ‘love jihad’ laws. The plea challenges the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance 2020 and Uttarakhand Freedom of Religion Act, 2018.

The petition makes the argument that these laws disturbs the ‘basic structure of the constitution.’ It violates Article 14 which advocates equality before law and Article 15 and 16 which prohibits discrimination, as only the people in these two states are under the application of these laws. It also violates Article 21 by empowering the state to interfere with personal liberty and dictating his freedom of choice. The laws interferes with right to privacy as it requires the individual to approach District Magistrate to validate their conversion for marriage. The petition refers to K.S Puttaswamy v. Union of India and Shafin Jahan v. Ashokan KM which has upheld the right to privacy of the individuals.

The PIL further suggest that the law views all women including economically weaker, privileged or marginalized as susceptible to conversion. The burden of proof shifts to the accused rather than the prosecutor, which in ordinary criminal cases the burden is on the prosecutor and the accused is innocent until proven guilty, making the case equivalent to an act of terror.

The challenge also contends that it affects the secular fabric of the nation by violating Article 25, the right to profess, propagate and practice religion of his/her own choice, according to which an individual has a right to convert to a religion of his/her own choice. Moreover, it undermines B.R Ambedkar’s vision who viewed inter-caste and inter-faith marriages as a means to eradicate social stratification and discrimination. The petitioner contends that the law gives authority to the government to protect religious identities and ‘demonstrate intolerance towards religious choice of the people’. This is against the very structure and secular fabric of the constitution.

The petition advocates that these laws are against the ‘spirit of national unity and fraternity.’ The contemporary times require laws that facilitate inter-caste and inter-religious marriage and not that curbs it.