Citizens for Justice and Peace, an NGO, files a writ petition against the ‘love jehad’ laws of Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand in the Supreme Court

Published : December 18, 2020 09:16 IST

At a protest meeting against the decision of the various BJP governments' proposed laws against 'love jehad', in Bengaluru on December 1. Photo: Manjunath Kiran/AFP

Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP), a Mumbai-based non-governmental organisation (NGO), has filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court challenging the constitutional validity of the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020 and the Uttarakhand Freedom of Religion Act, 2018.

In the petition filed through the advocate Tanima Kishore, CJP said that both the Uttarakhand Act and the Uttar Pradesh Ordinance place the burden on individuals to justify their personal decisions to State authorities, throttling their right to life and personal liberty, dignity, freedom of conscience and choice. The laws legitimise unconstitutional, anti-minority and misogynistic beliefs, and help further the hateful, communal agenda of extremists.

The petition, filed under Article 32 of the Constitution, cites detailed grounds for this challenge. The issues raised detail issues of privacy, extra-constitutional powers to the police and non-state actors and the fact that they violate the non-negotiable tenets of secularism, equality and non-discrimination. Both the Act and Ordinance are inherently anti-women and discriminate against women, giving them no agency whatsoever and are therefore bad in law and substance. The CJP petition makes a case for both the laws to be declared anti-constitutional and struck down.

The CJP’s petition also explores and elaborates on the concept of love jehad which is against the principles of pluralism and diversity in society. The plea states: “The concept of love jehad is an illusory construct based on rhetoric to promote divisiveness in society, generate permanent suspicious attitudes towards Islam and the Muslim community and create enmity between communities and breach harmony. Love jehad is not a notion that has developed overnight and that it has been the constant effort of the sectarian Government to place extra-constitutional trust at the hands of the Police.”

Teesta Setalvad, secretary, CJP, said: “Such laws need to be challenged. Already the spectre of ‘love jehad’, an illusory concept, has caused unimaginable misery, led to violence and intimidation by the police and non-state actors. ‘Laws’ that impinge on privacy, freedoms, autonomy, and violate principles of equality and non-discrimination have no place in 21st century ‘free India’. More than anything else, they are anti-women as they discriminate against women, denying them all agency.”

Delhi-based lawyers Vishal Thakre, Abhay Singh Yadav and Pranvesh, have also challenged the validity of these laws before the Supreme Court. Their public interest litigation (PIL) petition states: “The ordinance passed by the State of UP and UK is against the public policy and society at large” and prays the new laws be made null and void as “they disturb the basic structure of the Constitution.” A writ petition has also been filed before the Allahabad High Court by Advocate Saurabh Kumar challenging the Uttar Pradesh government’s ordinance as “it is both morally and constitutionally repugnant”.

The Uttar Pradesh law against conversion has already ruined the lives of young adults, who are being intimidated and threatened with violence.

On December 5, 22-year-old Pinky and Rashid of Moradabad, Uttar Pradesh, tried to register their marriage, which took place on July 24 this year. Rashid was arrested by the police under the new ‘love jehad’ law on charges of converting and forcibly marrying Pinky. Despite being three months pregnant, she was kept in a police station for eight hours and then whisked away to Nari Niketan, a shelter home for women. On December 15, when she was reunited with her family, she had suffered a miscarriage. She alleged that she was tortured at the home before being sent to a government hospital, where, as a result of the painful treatment given to her, she lost the foetus. She did not stop bleeding for many days after.

The Moradabad district officials denied Pinky’s charges.