The Supreme Court on Monday refused to transfer to itself petitions filed in Allahabad High Court challenging new law of Uttar Pradesh regulating religious conversions for the inter-faith marriages. A bench of Chief Justice SA Bobde and Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian said that it would like to have the advantage of the High Court order. Taking note of the observation of the bench, the Uttar Pradesh government preferred to withdraw the transfer petition.
Senior advocate P S Narasimha, appearing for Uttar Pradesh government, said to avoid multiplicity of proceedings before the High Court and the top court, the transfer petition may be allowed. The bench said, We have issued notice does not mean that the High Court cannot decide the issue. It said, Why should we stop the High Court from hearing the matter. Let us have the advantage of the High Court verdict. The top court had on January 6, agreed to examine controversial new laws of Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand regulating religious conversions for the inter-faith marriages.
It had, however, refused to stay the controversial provisions of the laws and issued notices to both state governments on two different petitions. The top court had issued notice to the Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand governments and sought their response within four weeks.
The pleas, filed by advocate Vishal Thakre and others and an NGO Citizen for Justice and Peace', have challenged the constitutional validity of the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Religious Conversion Ordinance, 2020 and the Uttarakhand Freedom of Religion Act, 2018 which regulate religious conversions for inter-faith marriages. The Uttar Pradesh Ordinance was cleared by the state Cabinet in November and ascent was given by Governor Anandiben Patel on November 28 last year.
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.