12, Feb 2021
The plea points out that the HP law casts a reverse burden of proof upon the person converted, and makes the offences, including the “offence” of getting married, cognizable and non-bailable
The plea by the NGO has sought leave to amend the original writ petition and include challenge to ‘Himachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 2019’ and the ‘Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Ordinance, 2020’ within the scope of its petition, Bar & Bench has reported.
The application in Supreme Court states that with the Acts and Ordinances in place, only residents of these four states will be subject to such inquiry and state intervention if and when they decide to convert from one faith to the other, or even if an inter-faith couple merely decides to get married, with or without conversion.
“The impugned Acts and Ordinances impose obligations of prior intimation, registration, scrutiny, and police enquiries as a precondition to marriage, which are utterly unconscionable, and indeed obnoxious and unsustainable under our Constitutional scheme,” reads the plea.
The Himachal Pradesh law has added several provisions dealing with “conversion by marriage”, and by Sections 7 and 9 reintroduced “even more obnoxious and unconstitutional provisions of prior notice, enquiry and investigation than were contained in the struck down provisions of the 2006 Act”, it said.
The petition points out that the Himachal Pradesh Act casts a reverse burden of proof upon the person converted, and makes the offences, including the “offence” of getting married, cognizable and non-bailable.
The laws in force in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh had come into force before that.
A Bench of Chief Justice of India SA Bobde, and Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian had, while hearing the plea challenging the UP ordinance Uttarakhand law, said that the Supreme Court would like to have the benefit of the High Court judgment in the case since Allahabad and Uttarakhand High Courts were seized of challenges to the constitutionality of the two acts.
The CJP’s plea under Article 32 of the Constitution stated that the ordinance and law are violative of Articles 21 and 25 as it empowers the State to suppress an individual’s personal liberty and the freedom to practice religion of one’s choice.
The plea has also highlighted that it casts the burden of proof on the accused against the established principles of criminal jurisprudence.
“The burden of proof gets shifted and it is dangerous as it is a non bailable offence and also under a circumstance where they are pitched against hostile communities and family members who masquerade in the glory of protection of women,” the petition said.
The Original piece may be read here