MP HC Declares Provision Under Anti-Conversion Law Illegal: What Does This Mean?

The move comes a relief to interfaith couples who are marrying out of their own volition.

2 min read
Hindi Female

The Madhya Pradesh High Court on Thursday, 17 November, held 'unconstitutional' a provision under the state's anti-conversion law, which required an individual to inform the district administration before converting.

The move comes a relief to interfaith couples who are marrying out of their own volition.

The court was hearing a clutch of petitions filed by activists and social workers, seeking a stay on the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act 2021 because it gave “unbridled and arbitrary powers” to authorities to prosecute citizens.

They also argued that the legislation went against the fundamental rights of the citizens to practice any religion and marry a person of their choice irrespective of the case and religion of their spouse.

Meanwhile, the Madhya Pradesh government, which had urged the High Court to uphold the provision of the law, made known on Sunday, 20 November, its intention to challenge the lower court's decision in the Supreme Court.

So, what does this High Court judgement mean, what will it change and where does this come from? We explain.


What Will This New HC Judgement Mean?

Simply put, this will stop authorities from taking "coercive action" against persons not making the declaration as is mandated by the law.

According to Section 10 of the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act 2021, if someone wishes to convert their religion, they need to submit a declaration to the district magistrate 60 days in advance, stating that they are not doing so under any force, coercion, undue influence or allurement.

For violating the provision, the person can be punished with a jail term of three to five years and a fine at least Rs 50,000.

However, this order is only an interim one since the court said:

'Till further orders respondent shall not prosecute the adult citizens if they solemnize marriage on their own volition and shall not take coercive action for violation of Section 10 of Act of 21."


Where Does The HC Judgement Come From?

The High Court primarily cited three judgements from the Supreme court for its decision: Lata Singh vs State of UP, Laxmibai Chandaragi vs State of Karnataka and Justice K.S.Puttaswamy(Retd) vs Union Of India.

Based on these, a bench of Justices Sujoy Paul and Prakash Chandra said that marriage being part of a person's core zone of privacy is inviolable and added that family marriage, procreation and sexual reorientation are all integral to the dignity of individuals.

“An individual has a fundamental right to decide the form of expression which includes his right to remain silent. Silence postulates a realm of privacy. The right to remain silent includes the right to decide the preferences on various aspects of life including the faith one will espouse. The Constitutional Right to the Freedom of Religion under Article 25 has implicit within it the ability to choose a faith and the freedom to express or not express those choices to the world,” it said.

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Topics:  Anti Conversion Law 

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