By quashing the FIR against an interfaith couple accused of “conversion”, the Allahabad High Court restores jurisprudence on a constitutional path, upholds freedom of choice (Sabrang India)

The petitioners had married under Special Marriage Act, 1954 and were booked under various Sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), including criminal conspiracy and kidnapping, along with provisions of the anti-conversion law of the state


On March 13 this year the Allahabad High Court Bench of Justice Mahesh Chandra Tripathi and Gajendra Kumar while hearing the petition for quashing the FIR registered against the interfaith couples noted that “We make it clear that the question in the present petition is not about the validity of marriage of two individuals…Rather, the issue is about the life and liberty of two individuals in choosing a partner or their right to freedom of choice as to with whom they would like to live.” Thus, the court emphasised on the preponderance of Article 21 of the Constitution, guaranteeing liberty and dignity of an individual to make life choices, irrespective of religious considerations.

Notably, the FIR was registered at Bannadevi police station in Aligarh on December 5 last year, charging the petitioners under IPC Sections 379 (theft), 120-B (criminal conspiracy), 366 (kidnapping or inducing a woman to compel her marriage), and Section 3 and 5(1) of U.P. Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Act, 2021.

Interestingly, the FIR invokes Section 3 and 5 (1) of the anti-conversion law, which relates to prohibition of conversion from one religion to another by fraudulent means and the punishment for the same, respectively, despite the fact that in the present case the petitioner had not converted her religion. This further adds weight to the claims about excessive abuse of Uttar Pradesh (UP)’s draconian anti-conversion law for punishing consenting interfaith couples.

This state law is under a constitutional challenge in the Supreme Court of India. Citizens for Justice and Peace is the lead petitioner. In its first petition challenging the anti-conversion laws of Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, the Supreme Court had issued notice in January 2021, Thereafter, CJP challenged Madhya Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh laws were also added in this challenge. An additional petition was thereafter filed after the Karnataka and Haryana laws were passed in 2022 and the amendment to the Gujarat law was also enacted. In January 2023, CJP filed an additional petition challenging the anti-conversion laws of Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Haryana, Jharkhand and Karnataka. Hence the anti-conversion laws of nine BJP ruled states are presently under the challenge in the Supreme Court, in which CJP is the lead petitioner.

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