Begin typing your search above and press return to search.
Top Stories

Religious Conversion Laws | Himachal Pradesh Re-enacted Provisions Which Have Already Been Struck Down: CJP Tells Supreme Court

Padmakshi Sharma
18 March 2023 7:46 AM GMT
Religious Conversion Laws | Himachal Pradesh Re-enacted Provisions Which Have Already Been Struck Down: CJP Tells Supreme Court

In the batch of petitions challenging religious conversion laws in various States, Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) highlighted before the Supreme Court that the State of Himachal Pradesh had re-enacted provisions directing prior intimation to district magistrate before conversion, despite such provisions being already struck down in the judgement of Evangelical Fellowship of India v. State of Himachal Pradesh. The matter was listed before a bench comprising CJI DY Chandrachud, Justice PS Narasimha, and Justice JB Pardiwala.

Senior Advocate CU Singh, appearing for CJP, requested for interim relief in relation with the counter affidavit submitted by the State of Himachal Pradesh. He argued that–

"Himachal had a 2006 law (Himachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 2006). This 2006 law had provisions of prior intimation to district magistrate before one month of conversion. This was struck down in the 2011 judgment of Justice Deepak Gupta- Evangelical Fellowship of India v. State of Himachal Pradesh. That was accepted by the State. In 2019, they have re-enacted the law which is under challenge. On affidavit, they say that the committee feels that the case is not binding. They say that it would be important for magistrate to enquire through police."

For context, the State of Himachal Pradesh in its counter affidavit, has argued that since the 2006 Act, the society has undergone many transitional changes and in view of such changes, it has become imperative to bring in place a more effective and stringent law to put in check forcible conversions and conversions taking place by way of misrepresentation and inducement etc.

Singh argued that the provisions which had already been struck down have to be stayed. The CJP, while challenging religious conversion laws of Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, and Karnataka, has specifically challenged provisions which mandate prior notice to the District Magistrate to change one's faith. It is highlighted that this provision can create difficulties for inter-faith couples and stated that the Acts in placing "unreasonable fetters" on persons wishing to convert from any faith, and in some cases even requiring persons wishing to convert to give a prior public declaration of their intention to convert, are violative of the rights of individuals to privacy, which is an essential component of Article 21, and also constitute an unreasonable restraint on their right to practice the religion of their choosing, a right protected by Article 25 of the Constitution.

However, CJI DY Chandrcahud said that a hearing on merits was necessary to stay a statute. The bench adjourned the hearing directing the parties to complete the pleadings.

Singh also submitted that there were nine states involved in the batch of petitions and if the state could file one affidavit and an adoption memo in all the other matters, it would be better. He stated that it would be a never ending exercise if the states had to file separate individual counters in each matter. Accordingly, CJI DY Chandrachud directed–

"The state governments have already been directed to file their counter affidavits. The state of Himachal Pradesh has filed its counter. For procedural convenience, we direct that where a state has more than one petitions where it is the respondent, it would be open for the state to file one common counteraffidavit and to adopt that affidavit in respect of other petitions. Time for filing of counter affidavit shall stand extended by three weeks."

Singh also argued that a a date for completion of proceedings must be fixed. He said–

"Other states such as Maharashtra are trying to hop on the bandwagon- they're having daily processions for love jihad and what not. They're putting pressure."

The court obliged with the request and directed that the pleadings were to be completed in four weeks.

Case Title : Citizens for Justice and Peace vs Union of India | WRIT PETITION (CRIMINAL ) No. 14 of 2023

Next Story