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Friday, September 24, 2021

Anti-conversion law: HC says no, Gujarat argues fighting jihadis

Section 5 states that religious priests must take prior permission from the district magistrate for converting any person.

By: Express News Service | Ahmedabad |
Updated: August 27, 2021 7:14:29 am
The Gujarat Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Act, 2021, which penalises forcible or fraudulent religious conversion through marriage, was notified by the state government on June 15 this year. (Representational)

Hours after the Gujarat High Court turned down the state government’s plea seeking rectification of its recent order in which it stayed Section 5 of the amended anti-conversion law, Pradipsinh Jadeja, state home and law minister, said on Thursday that the “anti-love jihad law” was brought in “as a weapon to destroy the jihadi forces that abuse our daughters”. He said the state government would challenge the HC order in the Supreme Court.

Section 5 states that religious priests must take prior permission from the district magistrate for converting any person.

The person who gets converted also needs to “send an intimation” to the district magistrate in a prescribed form. Jadeja said Section 5 forms the “core” of the anti-conversion law.

“We are moving ahead with firm determination to protect women of all religions, including Hindus. With firm willpo-wer, we have raised the weapon of law on love jihad to fight jihadi elements abusing girls. The Gujarat government has brought the Gujarat Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Act with the noble intention of checking fraudulent marriages and betrayal of women done by assuming fake Hindu identity, symbols and allurements,” Jadeja said in a statement.

He said the anti-conversion law was “not a political agenda, but a conscientious attempt by the state government to create a system to protect girls”. He said some opponents had “wrongly interpreted” it and moved the HC.

On August 19, a Division Bench of Chief Justice Vikram Nath and Justice Biren Vaishnav stayed Section 5 and seven other sections, mostly related to inter-faith marriages, pending further hearing. These “shall not operate merely because a marriage is solemnised by a person of one religion with a person of another religion without force or by allurement or by fraudulent means and such marriages cannot be termed as marriages for the purposes of unlawful conversion,” it said.

The Gujarat Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Act, 2021 was notified by the BJP-led state government on June 15.

Arguing for the state government, Advocate General Kamal Trivedi told the Bench on Thursday that Section 5 was there in the original law enacted in 2003. He said it does not specify inter-faith marriages, and is only related to seeking permission for conversion, either before or after marriage, or even in cases without marriage.

“Since there is a stay on Section 5, no one will come for permission even if it’s a voluntary conversion without marriage… It is meant for such propositions where everything is done willingly. This order means the whole law now stands stayed,” said Trivedi.

“The other sections which have been stayed are related to marriage, while Section 5 is for legal voluntary conversion. Under that section, if someone goes to the priest, the priest has to take permission. It deals with lawful conversion. Why should a section dealing with lawful conversion be stayed,” he said.

The Bench said that was his interpretation, and the court had stayed all sections related to obtaining prior permission for conversions.

“If a bachelor wants to get converted, he will require that permission. We have not stayed it. We have stayed the conversion through marriage only. That’s what we have said in the order,” said Chief Justice Nath. “We do not find any good reason to make any change in the order passed by us on 19.08.2021,” the Bench said.

The Gujarat chapter of the Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind and a resident of Ahmedabad, Mujahid Nafees, had filed separate petitions challenging the amended Act, saying some of its provisions were unconstitutional. —With PTI Inputs

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