‘For the collective good’: UP defends ‘love jihad’
The interest of the community prevails over an individual’s right to choose a life partner and the main duty of a secular state is to protect citizens from illegal conversions, the Uttar Pradesh government told the Allahabad high court on Thursday, in defense of a controversial new anti-conversion law claimed by critics. violates constitutional rights.
In an affidavit in response to a series of public interest litigation (PIL) challenging the UP 2020 Illegal Conversion of Religion Ordinance, the state government said the community and social interest are on a much higher pedestal. higher than the right of two people to marry. .
“When there is fear that psychosis will spread in the community at large and the community itself is in danger and succumbs to the pressure that results in forced conversion … it becomes necessary that the interest of the community as a whole requires protection and no microanalysis of individual interest can be performed. investigated ”, reads the affidavit that HT has seen. “The interest of the community will always prevail over individual interest.”
The affidavit was filed before a court headed by the Chief Justice Govind Mathur.
The UP ordinance was enacted on November 24 and prescribes a jail term of up to 10 years and a fine of up to ₹ 25,000 for conversion under marriage, fraud, duress or seduction. The law came into force days after Prime Minister Yogi Adityanath promised to fight “love jihad,” a term used by some Hindu groups to describe the relationships between Muslim men and Hindu women.
Various activists and legal experts have argued that the law could be used to target Muslims and violate fundamental rights to equality, freedom of religion, and life and personal freedom.
But the 35-page affidavit maintained that the law sought to protect a woman’s dignity and interests while she exercised her right to personal liberty and chose a life partner. He also said that people felt safe after the legislation went into effect. “Once two adults agree to marry, but if there is a psychosis of fear in the community, then it is about the interest of the community rather than the thinking of the community. This community interest is on a much higher pedestal than the agreement of two individuals to enter into a marriage, ”the document said. “Community interest is synonymous with social interest that is equivalent to public interest.”
The state’s additional attorney general, Manish Goyal, requested that the case be postponed indefinitely, as the Supreme Court also issued notices on similar petitions on Wednesday. This statement was opposed by the petitioners’ attorneys, Devesh Saxena and Shashwat Anand.
The court proceeded to reject the state government’s request, noting that the handling of the matter before the higher court cannot be the sole reason for the higher court to keep its hands off the case. The bank settled the matter for a hearing on January 15.
The state government also noted that the words “love jihad” were not used anywhere in the ordinance and claimed that the law was equally applicable to all forms of forced conversion, not just inter-religious marriages.
“Thinking about the family or the community is not the foundation but the interest of the community and the interest in keeping the family safe, and consequently, the entire social fabric in a balanced position is the objective, for which consent of two adult individuals to be regulated. In this regard, since there is no law in the state of UP, the current legislation seeks to cure the evil … In fact, people have placed their faith and feel safe after the entry into force of the current legislation, “said the sworn declaration. .
The document also details four cases to illustrate what constitutes a forced conversion in the opinion of the government.
A Hindu, Sikh or Muslim child studying in a convent school and a Christian family living as tenants with non-Christian families were situations that did not amount to forced conversion. But if a person from the programmed caste converts after being “lured” by a group of missionaries, or a Hindu woman marries a Muslim, that could be an example of forced conversion, according to the government. In the latter case, the document said that after marriage, the woman will be pressured to renounce her faith even if she does not want to; and stop worshiping idols and accept Islam in order to have a valid marriage under personal law and enjoy the right to inherit property from her husband.
“This will amount to a forced conversion. The position remains the same if a Hindu boy wants to marry a Muslim girl. The Hindu child will have to accept Islam. Here again freedom of choice is exercised but dignity is lost, and conversion is not exercised as a choice but by coercion due to the intervention of personal law, ”the affidavit states.
According to the government, the ordinance was intended to address this “conflict of interest” by safeguarding the inter-fundamental rights of individuals. The law was not intended to obstruct a woman’s right to marry according to her choice, but rather subject her to “certain provisions on machinery that are regulatory in nature,” he added.
Justifying the urgency behind the ordinance rather than passing a bill in the state assembly, the government argued that an increase in cases of forced conversions led to some heinous crimes and a public outcry. He also noted that similar statutes existed in eight other states and countries such as Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and Pakistan.
In addition, the government urged the higher court to let the executive decide the issues regarding the validity of a marriage, as provided in the ordinance, and not decide such issues in court proceedings. He cited a judgment from the United States Supreme Court to support this argument.
On the question of the law that imposes on the accused the responsibility to prove his innocence against the common principle of presumption of “innocence until proven guilty”, the affidavit says that the burden of proof has correctly fallen on the accused , since there will only be special knowledge of the facts in these cases and that reverse responsibility is justified in cases of “social evil”.
The state government also criticized the November 11 ruling of another high court, which held that the right to choose a partner, regardless of religion, was intrinsic to the “right to life and personal liberty.” That sentence was handed down in a case involving an interreligious marriage between a Hindu woman and a Muslim man. The affidavit stated that HC’s ruling “was not a good law.”