Gujarat High Court: Parts of Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Act 2021 Won’t Apply to Inter-Faith Marriages Without Force
On Thursday, the division bench of the Gujarat High Court passed an interim order to put a stay on several provisions of the Gujarat Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Act, 2021 stating that they won’t apply to inter-faith marriages which take place without force, allurement, or fraudulent means, Live Law reported.
The bench comprising of Chief Justice Vikram Nath and Justice Biren Vaishnav was hearing petitions challenging the Amendment Act for violation of fundamental rights enshrined in the Indian constitution.
The order came after a detailed discussion on the Act which was notified earlier this year in April was carried out on August 5 and 17 with the Court putting forward the stay to protect the parties of inter-faith marriage from being unnecessarily harassed.
“We are therefore of the opinion that pending further hearing, the rigours of Section 3, 4, 4A to 4C, 5, 6, and 6A shall not operate merely because marriage is solemnized by a person of one religion with another religion without force or allurement or fraudulent means and such marriages cannot be termed as marriages for the purposes of unlawful conversion.
The above interim order is provided only on the lines of the arguments made by the learned Advocate General Mr.Trivedi and to protect the parties of inter-faith marriage from being unnecessarily harassed,” the order by Gujarat HC read.
The Act has multiple provisions which have the potential to be misused like section 3A which enables any aggrieved person, his parents, brother, sister, or any other person related by blood, marriage or adoption may lodge an FIR with respect to an alleged unlawful conversion.
Similarly. section 4A prescribes punishment of imprisonment in the range of 3 to 5 years for unlawful conversion.
Its stringent clauses allow for the immediate arrest of the accused people as soon as a FIRs filed and furthermore places the burden of proof on the accused.
In a previous hearing of the petition, the High Court had orally observed that religion and marriage were matters of personal choice.
Other BJP ruled states like Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh have similar anti-conversion laws in place which have been reportedly employed by the state security forces to harass and even penalised inter-faith married couples to fuel the BJP-RSS’s narrative of “love jihad”.