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Gujarat defends anti-conversion law in High Court

An outside view of Gujarat High Court in Ahmedabad. File

An outside view of Gujarat High Court in Ahmedabad. File

The State government has contended before the Gujarat High Court that there was no “ban on interfaith marriages” in the State, but defended its new anti-conversion law saying marriages cannot be tool for “forceful conversion.”

The High Court is hearing two petitions that have challenged the newly enacted amendment in the law, which deals with forcible religious conversion through marriages.

The court has posted the matter for an interim order on August 19, in response to the petitions that have challenged amendments to the Gujarat Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Act, 2021.

During the hearing on Tuesday, a Bench of Chief Justice Vikram Nath and Justice Biren Vaishnav observed that the amended law keeps a sword hanging over interfaith couples because it has created an impression that interfaith marriages are not permissible in the State.

One of the petitions against the Gujarat Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Act, 2021, was filed in July by the Gujarat chapter of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind after the amended Act became a law in the State in June.

Advocate General Kamal Trivedi on Tuesday submitted that there should be no fear about the provisions of the law.

“Why this fear? So long as genuine conversion is there, people need not worry. Interfaith marriage per se is not prohibited in this law. It only prohibits forcible conversion by marriage,” he said.

He, however, contended, “The law says no person shall be converted by use of force, allurement, fraudulent means or by marriage for the purpose of conversion.”

In the petition, it has been argued that the amended law goes against the basic principles of marriage, and the right to propagate, profess and practice religion as enshrined in Article 25 of the Constitution.

The A-G also submitted that there were adequate safety valves in the law to ensure its provisions were not misused. He submitted that the focus of the law was on unlawful conversion and not on marriages, as stated in the petitions.

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Printable version | Jun 25, 2022 6:32:52 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/gujarat-defends-anti-conversion-law-in-high-court/article35984533.ece