Tribune News Service
New Delhi, January 25
The Supreme Court on Monday refused to entertain the UP Government’s petition seeking transfer petitions challenging it’s ordinance on religious conversion from Allahabad High Court to the top court.
Refusing to stop the Allahabad High Court from going ahead with the hearing of the matter, a Bench headed by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde said it would like to have the advantage of having a decision of the high court.
“People are making light of high courts these days. High Courts are constitutional court’s,” it noted.
As the Bench wasn’t included to entertain the transfer petition, senior advocate PS Narasimha, representing UP government, chose to withdraw it and accordingly the petition was “dismissed as withdrawn”.
The Uttar Pradesh Government had moved the Supreme Court last week seeking transfer of petitions challenging its ordinance aimed at checking unlawful religious conversion for inter-faith marriages.
The state government had invoked Article 139A of the Constitution which empowers the Supreme Court to transfer to itself cases “involving the same or substantially the same questions of law” pending before the Supreme Court and one or more high courts.
The Supreme Court had on January 6 refused to stay provisions of an Uttar Pradesh Ordinance and an Uttarakhand law aimed at checking unlawful religious conversion for inter-faith marriages.
A Bench led by CJI Bobde had, however, issued notice to the two states asking them to respond in four weeks to petitions filed by Vishal Thakre and others and NGO Citizens for Justice and Peace challenging the controversial UP Ordinance and the Uttarakhand law.
Terming the provisions as “oppressive” and “obnoxious” the petitioners alleged that several innocent persons had been arrested on the basis of UP Ordinance against ‘love jihad’.
The top court was hearing PILs against the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020 and Uttarakhand Freedom of Religion Act, 2018 which criminalise fraudulent religious conversion for interfaith marriages.
Promulgated in November last, the UP ordinance prescribes imprisonment from one year to 5 years, or Rs 15,000 fine (in normal cases) minimum three years and maximum 10 years, and fine of Rs 25,000, if the girl is a minor or from the SC/ST community. It prescribes a jail term of minimum three years up to 10 years, and Rs 50,000 fine in cases involving mass religious conversion. The offence is cognizable and non-bailable.
According to the Ordinance, no person shall convert or attempt to convert either directly or otherwise any other person from one religion to another by use/practice of misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, allurement or by any fraudulent means or by marriage nor shall any person abet, convince or conspire such conversion.
The petitioners also challenged the validity of the Uttarakhand Freedom of Religion Act, 2018 which has similar provisions on the ground of alleged violation of fundamental rights of citizens, contending their provisions went against public policy.