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U.P. religious conversion ordinance challenges Supreme Court verdicts

Supreme Court. File   | Photo Credit: The Hindu

The Uttar Pradesh ordinance criminalising religious conversion via marriage breaks away from a series of Supreme Court judgments, which hold that faith, the State and courts have no jurisdiction over an adult’s absolute right to choose a life partner.

Also read: U.P. Governor promulgates ordinance on unlawful conversion

The choice of a life partner, whether by marriage or outside it, is part of an individual's “personhood and identity”, the apex court has held.

Matters of dress and of food, of ideas and ideologies, of love and partnership are within the central aspects of identity. Neither the State nor the law can dictate a choice of partners or limit the free ability of every person to decide on these matters, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud wrote in the Hadiya case judgment.

Autonomy of the individual was the ability to make decisions in vital matters of concern to life, the Constitution Bench said in the K.S. Puttuswamy or ‘privacy’ judgment.

‘Chilling effect’ on freedoms

Any interference by the State in an adult’s right to love and marry has a “chilling effect” on freedoms.

Intimacies of marriage lie within a core zone of privacy, which is inviolable, the court has said. “The absolute right of an individual to choose a life partner is not in the least affected by matters of faith”.

Also read: Editorial | Policing faith

In the Lata Singh case, the top court recognised the country is going through a “crucial transformational period”. It said the “Constitution will remain strong only if we accept the plurality and diversity of our culture”. Relatives disgruntled by the inter-religious marriage of a loved one could opt to “cut off social relations” rather than resort to violence or harassment.

“If the parents of the boy or girl do not approve of such inter-caste or inter-religious marriage, the maximum they can do is that they can cut off social relations with the son or the daughter, but they cannot give threats or commit or instigate acts of violence and cannot harass the person who undergoes such inter-caste or inter-religious marriage”, the court said.

Also read: Now, Madhya Pradesh planning law against ‘love jihad’

This is still a “free and democratic country”, the Supreme Court noted.

In the Soni Gerry case, the court warned judges from playing “super-guardians”, succumbing to “any kind of sentiment of the mother or the egotism of the father”.

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Printable version | Jan 17, 2021 9:16:15 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/up-religious-conversion-ordinance-challenges-sc-verdicts/article33214198.ece

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