Uncivil proposal: On laws to curb 'love jihad'

Court verdicts in unrelated cases shouldn’t be a ruse to curb personal freedom to marry

Updated - November 04, 2020 11:08 am IST

Published - November 04, 2020 12:15 am IST

The astounding proposal by Uttar Pradesh and Haryana to enact a law to curb what they call ‘love jihad’ reeks of a vicious mix of patriarchy and communalism . Propounded by Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, the detestable idea amounts to legitimising a term that constitutes a blatant slur against inter-faith marriages and relationships in which one of the parties is a Muslim man. The ostensible reason for bringing in such a law seems to be that the “honour” of Hindu women is under threat from zealous Muslim youth seeking to win over girls from other communities for religious conversion in the name of love and marriage. The flaws in the concept are quite obvious: there is no legal sanction to self-serving and political terms such as ‘love jihad’ and there can be no legislation based on an extra-legal concept. In any case, legislative intervention in marriages involving consenting adults will be clearly unconstitutional. The domain of matrimony is occupied by separate laws governing weddings that take place under religious traditions, as well as the Special Marriage Ac t, which enables a secular marriage, including between couples from different faiths.

Also Read | After U.P. and Haryana, Madhya Pradesh mulls law against ‘love jihad’

Mr. Adityanath, who has also threatened those allegedly operating in secret by concealing their identities, and his Haryana counterpart, Manohar Lal, seem to be making the same mistakes: using the term ‘love jihad’ in a communal sense and speaking about marriages as if they were not a matter of personal choice. They would do well to remember that earlier this year, the Union Home Ministry made it clear that the term is not defined in law, while replying to a parliamentary question. Investigation into marriages that purportedly raised such a suspicion also failed to find any substance in the allegations. The immediate context for these leaders to go out on a limb about curbing inter-faith marriages is a recent Allahabad High Court judgment that frowned upon religious conversion solely for the purpose of marriage; and the horrible murder of a 20-year-old woman in Faridabad by a stalker who happened to be a Muslim. By no stretch of imagination can the murder be used to denounce consensual inter-faith relationships. Regarding the court verdict, the High Court had declined to intervene on a writ petition seeking police protection for a recently married couple, noting that the bride had converted from Islam to Hinduism solely for the purpose of marriage. It had found such an expedient conversion unacceptable, citing a similar 2014 verdict in which the court had questioned the bonafides of conversions without change of heart or any conviction in the tenets of the new religion. Although the court strayed from the issue at hand, its objective was to underscore that conversion should not become a device. It is indeed salutary as a principle that inter-faith couples retain their religious beliefs separately and opt for marriage under the Special Marriage Act. However, this principle cannot be used to derogate from personal choice or become a ruse to interfere in the individual freedom to forge matrimonial alliances.

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