The Uttarakhand High Court recently came to the aid of a couple who had married across faiths, with the woman converting to Hinduism from Islam before the marriage to her Hindu husband.
The couple had approached the Court on apprehension that the woman’s brothers may physically harm them.
A Bench of Justices Sudhanshu Dhulia and Ravindra Maithani clarified that they were not commenting on the marriage or the earlier conversion of the woman from Muslim to Hindu, “as it is prima facie in violation of the Uttarakhand Freedom of Religion Act, 2018.”
This Act is aimed against forcible religious conversions and provides that marriages done for the sole purpose of conversion are null and void (Section 6). Section 8 of the Act penalises religious conversion without a month’s prior notice to the concerned District Magistrate.
In this case, the Court held that there was no permission obtained from the District Magistrate. However, the petitioners asserted that they had moved an application (as required under Section 8), but that no decision has yet been taken on it.
On an interaction with the husband and wife, the Court noted that they appeared articulate and that both apprised the Court about the likely threat from the woman’s family.
The Court, in turn, first ordered the District Magistrate at Haridwar to inquire why the application moved by the woman for conversion has not been processed. If it has been processed, the Court is to be informed of when it was processed, the order said.
Further, in the interest of justice, and given the Supreme Court’s rulings in Lata Singh v. State of UP and S Khushboo vs. Kanniammal, the Court directed the police to give the couple protection as an interim measure.
The matter will be taken up next in March 2021.
On a related note, the Supreme Court was recently was moved challenging the Constitutionality of the Uttarakhand Freedom of Religion Act as well as the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020.