Conversion laws validity: SC refuses to intervene immediately

Apex court says it would like to have benefit of HCs’ conclusions before taking on issue

The Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to intervene immediately and examine the constitutional validity of laws enacted by State governments like Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, which criminalise religious conversion through marriage and mandates prior official clearance before marrying into another faith.

A Bench led by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Sharad A. Bobde asked the petitioners to first approach the respective High Courts.

The CJI said the Supreme Court would like to have the benefit of the High Courts’ conclusions before taking on the issue. “We have come to know that the Allahabad and the Uttarakhand High Courts are already seized of the matter. It would be advantageous to know what they have to say… We have already, in another case, declined the transfer of the case to us from the Allahabad High Court.”

Denial of U.P. plea

The apex court recently denied a plea by the Uttar Pradesh government to transfer a plea challenging the religious conversion ordinance from the State High Court to the Supreme Court.

The Bench, on Wednesday, was hearing petitions filed by NGO PUCL, and advocate Vishal Thakre against the implementation of the Prohibition Of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020, and the Uttarakhand Freedom of Religion Act, 2018.

Senior advocate Sanjay Parekh, for PUCL, argued that more States, like Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat, were passing identical laws.

Mr. Thakre’s petition said “rampaging mobs are lifting off people in the middle of wedding ceremonies” buoyed by the enactment of these laws.

Refusal to stay 2 laws

In December last, the apex court refused to stay the two laws.

“What we have here is multiple States like Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh enacting these laws which are absolutely horrifying. They require the prior permission to marry,” senior advocate C.U. Singh had submitted for Mr. Thakre in the December hearing.

Mr. Singh had argued that the burden of proof is on the people who marry to show they are not doing so to get converted.

“Those who are found guilty under these laws stare at a 10-year prison sentence. The offences are non-bailable. We are getting reports that people are being picked up in the middle of weddings on suspicion of religious conversion,” he had argued.

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