Current AffairsIndia

Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Ordinance challenged in Supreme Court

A petition has been filed before the Supreme Court challenging the constitutional validity of the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Ordinance, 2020.

The petitioners have prayed that the government be directed to produce all materials/documents/data etc regarding “love jihad” or “forced conversions”, which necessitated the promulgation of the Ordinance.

The petition filed through Advocates Rajesh Inamdar, Shashwat Anand and Aldanish Rein states,

“It is unfortunate that the political and communal gimmick of ‘Love Jihad,’ which was earlier solely confined to the ‘Us vs Them’ narrative espoused by fake-propaganda machines, political rallies and societal fringes, has manifested itself as a legislation.

“Wounds and mauls individuals’ rights”

It has been submitted that the Ordinance seriously “wounds and mauls” the rights of individuals by criminalizing ‘conversions by marriage’ under Section 3. This, it is argued, is a blatant violation of Articles 14, 19, 21 and 25 of the Constitution.

It is claimed that the Ordinance in question impinges upon the freedom to marry, the freedom to practice any religion, the right to privacy, right to equality before the law, right to personal liberty and freedom of choice and expression.

It has further been stated,

“…legitimate State aim ensures that the nature and content of the law which imposes the restriction falls within the zone of reasonableness, which is a guarantee against arbitrary State action. The pursuit of a legitimate State aim ensures that the law does not suffer from manifest arbitrariness.

That, importantly, the State aim is to be inferred from the law through with State imposes restriction. This test is premised on checking the veracity of the concerned law.”

No urgent situation exists

The petitioners have submitted that there was no urgent situation which compelled the legislators to promulgate the concerned Ordinance. It has been contended that “it is apparent that is no available data for something as imaginary as the ‘conspiracy theory’ and hoax of ‘Love Jihad.’ Manifestly, no such urgent situation existed, and it was not a fit case for an Ordinance to be issued.”

Further, the petitioners have argued that the Ordinance is “textbook example of blatant abuse of the powers vested under Article 213 of the Constitution”. It is contended that the government, in the process of promulgating the Ordinance, has bypassed the legislative process of the Assembly, which is not only arbitrary and violative under Article 14, but also a “fraud on the Constitution itself”.

Negates transformative constitutionalism

It has been further contended that the Ordinance is a direct attack on personal choice and liberty. On these terms, it has been stated that “the law which seeks to preserve the power asymmetries in the existing social hierarchies negates the concept of Trans-formative constitutionalism by coercing an individual to lay down his treasured fundamental rights before the State-sponsored status quo.

No conspiracy behind ‘inter-faith’ marriages

The petition also points out that there is no such evidence to ‘prove any foreign conspiracy’ behind inter-faith marriages. It has been submitted that even the Special Investigation Team of the Kanpur Police had submitted a report ruling out an organized conspiracy behind the cases of inter-faith marriages which were placed under the scanner.

Reliance has also been placed on a statement made by G Kishan Reddy, Minister of State for Home Affairs, in Parliament. In response to a Parliamentary Question, Reddy said that no such case has been reported by any central agency.

“Further, there seems to be absolutely no data on ‘love jihad’ available with any government agency or department,” the petition quotes Reddy as saying.

On these grounds, among others, the petitioners have sought a direction from the Court to declare the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Ordinance, 2020 as unconstitutional and void.

 

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