The Supreme Court Wednesday dismissed a plea challenging the validity of anti-conversion laws enacted in states like Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, which make it illegal to convert one’s religion for the sake of marriage.
While the apex court bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde noted that it was an important issue it said that Allahabad and Uttarakhand High Courts are already looking into it.
“We are not on merits at all. Allahabad and Uttarakhand high courts are entertaining similar petitions. We are not denying the importance of matter at all. We are saying we would like to have the benefit of high courts view,” said the bench, also comprising Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian.
Senior advocate Sanjay Parikh, appearing for the petitioner, said they have challenged the laws enacted by three states including Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand as innocent persons are being booked under these Acts.
The Uttar Pradesh government cleared the Uttar Pradesh Ordinance in November last year and the ordinance received ascent by Governor Anandiben Patel on November 28, 2020. It relates not only to inter-faith marriages but all religious conversions and lays down elaborate procedures for those who wish to convert to another religion.
The Uttarakhand Act entails two-year jail term for those found guilty of religious conversion through force or “allurement”, which can be in cash or in kind -- employment or material benefit.
Parikh said the top court had earlier issued notice on similar petitions and this plea should be tagged with them.
However, the SC bench said the petitioner should approach the concerned high court on this.
“Sanjay Parikh, senior counsel for the petitioners seeks permission to withdraw the writ petition with liberty to approach the high court. The writ petition is dismissed as withdrawn with liberty as prayed for,” the bench said in its order.
On January 25, the top court had refused to transfer to itself the petitions filed in the Allahabad High Court challenging the new state law.
The bench had said that it would like to have the advantage of the high court order. Taking note of the observation by the apex court, the Uttar Pradesh government had preferred to withdraw the transfer petition.
Before that, on January 6, the apex court had agreed to examine the new laws of Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand regulating religious conversions by marriage.
However, it had refused to stay the controversial provisions of the laws and had issued notices to both the state governments on two separate petitions.
Both the petitions have challenged the Constitutional validity of the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Religious Conversion Ordinance, 2020 and the Uttarakhand Freedom of Religion Act, 2018.
(With PTI inputs)
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