Gujarat HC seeks govt. Response to the challenge to the Gujarat religious freedom law
the High Court of Gujarat today issued a notice to the state government of Gujarat challenging the vires of the Gujarat Religious Freedom Act 2003 as amended by the Gujarat Religious Freedom (Amendment) Act 2021 noting that it is up to the married couple to decide which religion to follow (in case of interfaith marriage).
Learn more about the law here: Gujarat Assembly Passes Religious Freedom Amendment Bill 2021
Referring to the Gujarat Religious Freedom Act 2003 as amended by the Gujarat Religious Freedom (Amendment) Act 2021 [Section 3]attorney Mihir Joshi argued that conversion by marriage or by a person who marries has been criminalized and violates article 21.
“An interfaith marriage is never smooth, this act essentially removes the choice of two adults of different religions to marry. Marriage is not illegal per se, which has been criminalized. “
It can be noted that the original law of 2003 only prohibited the forced conversion from one religion to another by force or by seduction or by fraudulent means, however, the amended law now prohibits acts such as forced religious conversion through marriage or assisting a person to marry.
The bench of Chief Justice Vikram Nath and Judge Biren Vaishnav said orally as follows:
“Either you say if there is marriage by force or by fraudulent means & then there is conversion, then of course it is not fair, fair enough … (this is not correct)“
To this, the public prosecutor Manisha Luvkumar replied that “if the bait of marriage is the only means on which there is conversion … “.
“We can clarify that if there is an interfaith marriage, without any coercion, or fraudulent means or lure then at least it should not be treated as a misdemeanor … jail“the chief justice remarked orally.
To this, the public prosecutor Manisha Luvkumar again replied as follows: “The object of the law is to see that in a relationship, to say that unless you convert there will be no marriage and therefore, marriage if you want, you have to convert … that we are trying to resolve.“
To this CJ Vikram Nath said: “But it’s between two individuals.”
Manisha Luvkumar said to this public prosecutor: “Quite honestly, at this point, I haven’t looked at the Fa in its entirety. Please give an opinion. I have not examined the Act in its entirety and therefore am not in a position to assist the Court. “
Any further, Judge Vaishnav says thus:
“No if someone gets married you send them to jail so the state will make sure the marriage has not been forced?. “
“In itself, an interfaith marriage cannot be an offense. Marriage in itself does not require conversion», Submitted the public prosecutor.
“But, it’s up to the married couple to decide which religion to follow, noted the Court.
In addition, the Chief Justice also noted:
“If the state takes action / sends someone to jail in case of interfaith marriage, you come to us, we will protect you. “
Finally, giving notice to the state government, the High Court sent the case for hearing on August 17. In addition, as the state law was challenged, the Court also issued an opinion to the Advocate General.