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regular-article-logo Friday, 31 May 2024

Unprotected: Editorial on Allahabad High Court denying protection to inter-faith couples

Although no proof of love jihad was ever found, even according to the government’s admission in Parliament, the myth is used to harass and hurt inter-faith couples

The Editorial Board Published 25.04.24, 08:04 AM
Representational image.

Representational image. File Photo.

In 2024, the Allahabad High Court denied protection to nine interfaith couples who had petitioned the court in fear of violence from their families. This trend had begun in the previous year, with partial protection granted to three couples. The reason given by the high court was that the couples had not complied with the requirements of the Uttar Pradesh Protection from Unlawful Conversion Act, 2021, known as the anti-conversion law. According to it, to get married, a couple belonging to two different religions needed to get a conversion certificate from the district magistrate. That meant a complicated series of steps that allows intrusion and prevention by families and society. The court asked the couples to return after getting the certificate — some had tried and failed — although it is not clear what protection from violence had to do with the law. Marriage and live-in relationships of consenting and adult interfaith couples are not only being resisted but also being criminalised, in effect, by the law. The Supreme Court has repeatedly emphasised that neither State nor family can
interfere in the free choice of partner by adults. Courts are expected to uphold the right to life and liberty of individuals, and giving procedural matters of the anti-conversion law more importance cannot achieve that.

These laws in certain Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled states, such as Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Haryana, were formulated to prevent something that the saffron brotherhood calls love jihad, by which men of the minority community allegedly lure or coerce women from the majority community to marry them for purposes of conversion. Although no proof of love jihad was ever found, even according to the government’s admission in Parliament, the myth is used to harass and hurt inter-faith couples. The targets are religious freedom and choice in marriage, while the laws can be used to control women. They are also an intimidatory tactic. The BJP’s approach is double-edged. Love jihad does not exist, and the violation of
constitutional freedoms in the laws is the subject of a number of petitions before the Supreme Court, yet BJP-ruled states are promulgating and applying anti-conversion laws with impunity. Since the Allahabad High Court had given protection to a large number of interfaith couples earlier, its change seems all the more remarkable — and distressing.

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