Gujarat HC stays some sections of ‘anti-love jihad’ law | India News

AHMEDABAD: The Gujarat high court on Thursday stayed six amended provisions in the anti-conversion law covering interfaith marriages, popularly known as “anti-love jihad law”. The court clarified that the amended sections would not apply in cases of inter-religious marriages, which take place without force, allurement or fraudulent means.
Staying the amended sections in the Gujarat Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Act, 2021, the bench of Chief Justice Vikram Nath and Justice Biren Vaishnav said, “The interim order is to protect the parties of interfaith marriage from being unnecessarily harassed.”
The stay on these sections effectively means that an FIR under this law cannot be lodged merely on the basis of an interfaith marriage.
“We are of the opinion that pending further hearing, rigors of Section 3,4, 4a to 4c, 5, 6, and 6a shall not operate merely because the marriage is solemnised by a person of one religion with person of another religion without force, allurement or fraudulent means and such marriages cannot be termed as marriage for the purpose of unlawful conversion,” the court said.
Advocate general Kamal Trivedi, seeking a clarification, asked whether the provisions of the amended law will apply if interfaith marriage results in forceful conversion. To this, CJ Vikram Nath said that the provisions cannot be applied if there is no force or allurement involved in conversion.
The Gujarat Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Act, 2021, which penalises forcible or fraudulent religious conversion through marriage, was notified by the state government on June 15.
According to the Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act (2003) conversion by “or any fraudulent means” was a punishable offence. This clause was replaced with “or by any fraudulent means or by marriage or by getting a person married or by aiding a person to get married” in the 2021 amended Act.
The amendments were challenged by Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind and an activist Mujahid Nafees by terming them to be in violation of various constitutional provisions, including Article 25. The petitions were filed through advocate Mohammed Isa Hakim and senior counsel Mihir Joshi contended that the provisions are an encroachment on a citizen’s right to privacy in her decision of marriage. They argued that the law effectively rendered interfaith marriages illegal, unless permission is sought from competent authority.
During the hearings, the court repeatedly questioned the government whether it intended to prohibit interfaith marriages because it is a matter of personal choice. The court was also concerned about the government’s bid to shift burden of proof on the accused that after lodging an FIR, a person has to go to jail and then has to prove that the marriage has taken place without coercion. This is because the amended law provides for any relative of the victim to file a complaint.
Jamiat Ulema Gujarat, in a media statement, said that with the HC’s stay, FIR under this law cannot be filed until the elements of force or allurement are not proved for conversion after interfaith marriages.
Following the amendment in the Act, three FIRs have been registered till now. In one case, the woman, after filing a complaint against her husband and in-laws, has approached the HC for quashing the FIR.

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