The Supreme Court on Wednesday declined to stay the ordinance promulgated by the Uttar Pradesh government regulating inter-faith marriages and religious conversion. It also declined to stay similar laws which are in force in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh.
A three-judge bench headed by CJI SA Bobde, however, agreed to examine the validity of the ordinance and the laws. The bench also comprising Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian issued notices to Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh governments.
The top court was hearing petitions 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 petitions by a Delhi based lawyer Vishal Thakre and Mumbai based Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) under Article 32 of the Constitution stated that the ordinance and law are violative of 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.
At the outset, the top court asked the petitioners to approach the Allahabad High Court after Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said that it is already seized of the matter. The bench said that this is not the transfer petition where it can transfer to itself all the cases on the law after one of the petitioner said that the issue should be examined by the top court.
Senior advocate C U Singh, appearing for the NGO, referred to the judgement of Justice (retd) Deepak Gupta and said that similar laws were being made in various states. He sought stay of the provisions of the law and said that people are being "lifted" by authorities in the middle of wedding ceremonies.
Some of the provisions of these laws are oppressive and horrible in nature and require prior consent of the government to marry which was "absolutely obnoxious", Singh added.
The bench said that it was issuing notice and sought response from both the state governments within four weeks.
When Singh insisted for stay of provisions, the CJI said that now stay is sought on some provisions without hearing the states. How can it be done? the bench said.