Court rejects Gujarat govt's plea to rectify its order on anti-conversion lawtext_fields
Ahmedabad: The Gujarat high court on Thursday rejected the state government's plea regarding the rectification of its recent order in which it stayed the operation of section 5 of the new anti-conversion law. Section 5 of the Gujarat Freedom of Religion Amendment act 2021 proposes that religious priests take prior permission from the district magistrate for converting any person from one religion to another. Moreover, the one who got converted also needs to" send an intimation" to the district magistrate in a prescribed form.
After hearing the arguments put forth by the state advocate General Kamal Trivedi, the division bench of Chief Justice Vikram Nath and Justice Biren Vaishnav stated that they do not find reasons to make any changes in the order passed. On August 19, the high court stayed sections 3, 4,4A TO 4C, 5, 6 and 6A of the amended Act pending further hearing, saying they "shall not operate merely because a marriage is solemnized by a person of one religion with a person of another religion without force or by allurement or by fraudulent means and such marriages cannot be termed as marriages for the purposes of unlawful conversion."
Trivedi tried to convince the judges that a stay on section 5 would actually stay the application of the entire law itself, and no one would approach the authorities for seeking permission before they get converted. He added that section 5 does not use the word "marriage" and deals with permission from the district magistrate for conversion, either before or after marriage, or even cases without marriage.
While rejecting the plea, Chief Justice Nath said, "If a bachelor wants to get converted, he will require that permission. We have not stayed it. We have stayed the conversion through marriage only. That's what we have said in the order".
The Gujarat freedom of religion Amendment act 2021 penalizes forcible or fraudulent religious conversion through marriage. It was notified by the BJP led state government on June 15 this year. The BJP governments in Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh are also enacting similar laws. Last month, the Gujarat chapter of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind filed a petition in the HC, claiming that some of the amended sections of the state's new law were unconstitutional.