Rupani govt to challenge HC stay on anti-conversion law

Gujarat government to challenge HC's stay order on anti-conversion law in SC

A minister claimed that 'sensitive' chief minister Vijay Rupani introduced this law to 'protect his sisters and daughters' without any political agenda

Gujarat CM Vijay Rupani. Credit: PTI File Photo

Hours after the Gujarat High Court refused to modify its order staying several sections of contentious anti-conversion law described by the government as "anti-love jihad law", the Vijay Rupani government on Thursday evening said in a statement that it will challenge the order in the Supreme Court.

Announcing the decision, minister of state for law Pradipsinh Jadeja was quoted in a statement released by the government as saying, "In Gujarat, we are moving ahead with a firm resolve to protect sisters and daughters of all religions, including Hindus. To fight jihadi elements who misbehave with daughters, we brought a weapon in the form of anti-love jihad law as a result of a determined political will. The state government has tried to protect the sisters and daughters by passing the Gujarat religion freedom bill in the state legislative assembly with the auspicious intention of banning marriages performed under false Hindu names, symbols, enticed by greed or temptation."

Jadeja claimed that "sensitive" chief minister Vijay Rupani introduced this law to "protect his sisters and daughters" without any political agenda. However, he has been quoted in the statement, "While the state government has tried to protect sisters by passing the Gujarat Freedom of Religion Amendment Bill, several opposition elements have misinterpreted the law and filed petitions in the court, which has stayed the law against which government will have to move the Supreme Court." The petitions challenging the law were filed by Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind, Gujarat and an activist Mujahid Nafees.

Earlier last week, the division bench led by outgoing chief justice Vikram Nath had stayed the controversial sections by holding that "Prima-facie inter-faith marriages between two consenting adults by operation of the provisions of Section 3 of the 2003 Act interferes with the intricacies of marriage including the right to the choice of an individual, thereby infringing Article 21 of the Constitution Of India."

Section 3 of the act prohibits religious conversion of any person by use of force or allurement or by any fraudulent means. The Vijay Rupani government amended this section by adding marriage as a medium of conversion by amending the Gujarat Freedom Of Religion Act, 2003.

Also Read | Gujarat govt's anti-conversion law interferes with right to choice: HC

The high court had said, "A plain reading of Section 3 would indicate that any conversion on account of marriage is also prohibited." The order noted that the way state government is trying to interpret its reasoning may not be understood by the common man. The order stated the prima facie section 3 of the Act makes an interfaith married and subsequent conversion a criminal offence.

The court also said 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 court has also pointed out how Section 6A of the Act places the burden of proof on interfaith couples "to prove that the marriage was not solemnised on account of any fraud, allurement or coercion. This again puts the parties validly entering into an inter-faith marriage in great jeopardy."

After this order, the government moved a modification plea against suspension of Section 5 of the new law. This section mandates that religious priests must take prior permission from the district magistrate for any religious conversion. Besides, district magistrates are required to to be informed in a prescribed form.

The division bench refused to rectify its order while stating, "We do not find any good reason to make any change in the order passed by us on 19.08.2021. Accordingly, the note for speaking to minutes stands disposed off." On August 19, the court stayed sections 3, 4, 4A to 4C, 5, 6 and 6A, which deal with interfaith marriages and religious conversion.

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