A recently passed ordinance in Uttar Pradesh outlawing forced conversions by marriage, coercion or enticement is unfortunate because it puts freedom of choice, dignity and human rights on the back seat, former Supreme Court judge Madan Lokur said.
Delivering a public lecture on Sunday, Lokur said that laws punishing interfaith marriages violated jurisprudence developed by the Supreme Court protecting freedom of choice and human dignity.
“Giving a back seat to freedom of choice, dignity and human rights, a stringent ordinance related to marriage and forcible conversion has recently been passed in Uttar Pradesh…Are we as a society prepared for this,” Lokur said.
“What happens to the law declared by the Supreme Court in 2018 in the Hadiya case?” he asked, referring to the top court’s verdict recognising an adult woman’s choice to convert to Islam and marry a man of her choice.
His comments came days after Uttar Pradesh promulgated the UP Prohibition of Unlawful Religious Conversion Ordinance-2020 that outlawed religious conversions by marriage, coercion, deceit or enticement, and prescribed up to 10 years imprisonment for those found guilty. The law includes a provision to void a marriage if it is solemnised primarily to convert a woman’s faith. The burden of proof is on the person who converted, and those who performed the conversion.
The former judge, delivering the Sunil Memorial Lecture, recalled that in 2018, a similar law was introduced by Uttarakhand legislature, called the Freedom of Religion Act, where marriages performed with the sole purpose of religious conversion were declared null and void.
“The purpose of these laws is to prohibit what is commonly known as ‘love jihad’ which has no clear definition…The carefully drafted dignity jurisdiction assiduously developed over the years by the Supreme Court is slowly being given an undignified cremation of the Hathras kind and might reach a point of no return if so called anti-love jihad laws are passed or extended to other communities,” he said, referring to the forced cremation of a Dalit woman, a rape victim, by local authorities in Uttar Pradesh’s Hathras district last month.