Supreme Court refuses to entertain State government’s plea to hear the case
The Allahabad High Court has deferred the final hearing of the writ filed against the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020 to February 2 citing the petition moved by the Yogi Adityanath-led government to transfer the case to the Supreme Court.
On Monday, the State government said an application to transfer the petition was pending in the apex court. Reports said the SC declined to accept the plea and said it would not intervene in the case.
A HC Bench of Chief Justice Govind Mathur and Justice Siddhartha Varma listed the matter for February 2. The court is hearing a bunch of PILs challenging the constitutional validity of the ordinance.
On January 18, the HC had allowed a writ petition by the Association for Advocacy and Legal Initiatives through its managing trustee Tulika Srivastava to intervene in the writ proceedings. In its petition, the AALI argued that the ordinance outlaws conversion for the sole purpose of marriage, infantalises the legitimate choice made by an adult person who voluntarily and of their own free will and volition chooses to opt for a way of life by converting their religion to that of their partner in marriage.
“It negates consent and robs a person of their agency and capacity to love. In matters of faith and marriage, individual autonomy is supreme and the impugned ordinance corrodes and relegates individual autonomy by defining permissible motives or reasons behind acting upon one’s autonomy in making decisions of faith and marriage,” the AALI said.
It is settled law that in the garb of protecting women, laws cannot deny them autonomy and right to take decisions as adults, the AALI said, stressing that the State cannot promote gender stereotypes.
In the original writ, petitioner Saurabh Kumar of Prayagraj prayed for the ordinance to be declared ultra vires saying it was “both morally and constitutionally repugnant”.
The provisions giving the State policing powers over a citizen’s choice of life-partner or religion militate against the fundamental rights to individual autonomy, privacy, human dignity and personal liberty guaranteed under Article 21, the petitioner submitted.
Following this, the HC had issued a notice to the government and sought its response.
The State government in a counter affidavit filed through Special Secretary, Home Department, defended the ordinance and said it was safeguarding community interests. “When there is fear psychosis in the community at large and the community itself is endangered and succumbs to the pressure resulting in forceful conversion, under the said circumstances it becomes necessary that the interest of the community as a whole requires protection and no micro analysis of individual interest can be looked into,” the counter affidavit said.
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