Interfaith Marriages: Gujarat HC Stays Certain Sections of Anti-Conversion Law

The court said that "something basic has to be there to show that there is force or fraud or allurement."

2 min read

The Gujarat High Court on Thursday, 19 August, stayed certain sections of the state's anti-conversion law and said that certain provisions of the it will not be applicable to interfaith marriages till there is something to show there is force, allurement or fraud involved.

Passing an interim order over a plea challenging the Gujarat Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Act, 2021, the high court said that the provisions will not operate merely because a marriage is interfaith.

"We are therefore of the opinion that pending further hearing the rigours of sections 3, 4, 4A to 4C, 5, 6, 6A shall not operate merely because the marriage is solemnised by a person of one religion with another without force or by allurement or by fraudulent means and such marriages cannot be termed as marriages for the purposes of unlawful conversion," the interim order passed by Chief Justice Vikram Nath and Justice Biren Vaishnav read, as quoted by Bar&Bench.

According to Bar&Beanch, Chief Justice Nath said that "something basic has to be there to show that there is force or fraud or allurement in the interfaith marriage".

What the Order Said

The order dealt with concerns pertaining to the provisions of the law which treat all conversions on account of marriage as unlawful and stand to prohibit them.

Noting some provisions, it read, "Marriage itself and a consequential conversion is deemed as an unlawful conversion attracting penal provisions."

Further, the order noted that the 'anti-conversion' regulation also places the burden of proof on the people entering the inter-faith union.

"Section 6A of the 2003 Act places the burden of proof on the parties entering into an inter-faith marriage to prove that the marriage was not solemnized on account of any fraud, allurement or coercion," the order read.

Underlining that the Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act 2003 aims to only prohibit conversion by coercion, force, allurement of fraud, the court noted that "From the perception of the common man, it appears that merely because a conversion occurs because of marriage, it per se cannot be held to be an unlawful conversion or a marriage done for the purpose of unlawful conversion."

The Petition

The court passed the order over a petition filed by Jamiat Ulama-E-Hind, an organisation of Islamic scholars.

The petition had challenged the act on the provisions of violation of citizen's fundamental rights under Article 25 of the Constitution and the right to privacy under Article 21.

The Law

Touted as the “Love Jihad” law, it came into force in Gujarat on 15 June and laid down stricter punishment for forced conversion through marriage.

While the 2003 Act prohibited only forcible conversions by fraudulent representation or threat, the amendment introduced the third ground of prohibition – forcible religious conversion through marriage.

The amendment added more categories to the list of persons who can complain about instances of “forced conversion” under Section 3A that defined “aggrieved person” – parents, brother, sister, or any other person related by blood marriage, adoption – may file a complaint at the police station

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