New Delhi: The Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind has submitted an impleadment application before the supreme court in the Public Interest Litigation filed against the Uttar Pradesh government's anti-conversion ordinance that is dubbed as law to curb "Love Jihad."
The Islamic scholars' body raised the issue of fundamental rights of the Muslim youth, highlighted that the ordinance encroaches upon the right to propagate guaranteed by Article 25 of the Constitution. It also singled out the contradiction in the ordinance which provides that reconversion to person's previous religion is not illegal, even if it is vitiated by fraud, force, allurement, misrepresentation and so on.
The plea said the ordinance interferes in the autonomy of the individual to make personal choices and imposes penal consequences even when the act of conversion does not affect the society at large.
The ordinance provides that the person who desires to convert has to give a declaration at least 60 days in advance, while the person who performs the conversion ceremony has to give one month's advance notice.
"Such a provision not only invades into the right of privacy but also risks the security of those persons whose families are opposing the conversion," the body said.
The plea said the Ordinance is unconstitutional being violative of Articles 14, 21 and 25 of the Constitution.
"Ordinance attempts to regulate a personal decision of each human being by encroaching upon an individual's choice to convert to a religion of his/her choice. It is submitted that scrutiny by the state of such a personal decision is a grave assault on personal liberty of an individual and is violative of Article 21," said the plea.
The plea said that apart from the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020 and the Uttarakhand Freedom of Religion Act, 2018, Himachal Pradesh (Himachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 2019) has also enacted a similar legislation. A similar legislation is in Madhya Pradesh where the Cabinet cleared the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Bill 2020.
The organisation has argued that the Ordinance reverses the rule of burden of proof in criminal law. "It is submitted that burden of proof in criminal cases is on the prosecution, and the presumption is that a person accused of committing an offence is innocent until proven guilty. However, the Impugned Ordinance proceeds on the presumption that each religious conversion is illegal," said the plea.
The application, filed through advocate Ejaz Maqbool, contended that the Ordinance made it a criminal offence to convert a person by offering him or her an "allurement", which is very broadly defined, for example including gifting of a book containing teachings of Islam.
"It is submitted that obligation to seek permission for conversion two months in advance is fundamentally arbitrary and a violation of the right to privacy," said the organisation.