Shimla/New Delhi, March 18- State of HP re-enacted anti-conversion law struck down by court : CJP
The Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) challenging various anti-conversion laws enacted by several states contended before the Supreme court (SC) that Himachal Pradesh has re-enacted the provisions of a 2006 anti-conversion law by enacting a new similar law which was already struck down by the Himachal Pradesh High court.
Division bench of CJI DY Chandrachud, Justice PS Narasimha, and Justice JB Pardiwala. Chief Justice of India was hearing a batch of petitions challenging conversion religious laws legislated by various States. The SLP was filed by the Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) plead before the apex court that Himachal Pradesh had re-enacted provisions directing prior intimation to Deputy commissioner or Magistrate before conversion. He also stated that before this such provisions also existed in another anti-conversion law brought by the state in 2006, already struck down by Himachal Pradesh High court in a case filed against the old law in ‘Evangelical Fellowship of India v/s State of Himachal Pradesh’ verdict.
Appearing for CJP, Sr. Advocate CU Singh, urged the bench to give interim relief in the matter. He informed the apex court that Himachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 2006 had provisions of prior information to district magistrate before one month of conversion. The section of the legislation brought by the Himachal Pradesh government was struck down in the 2011 in a judgment by Justice Deepak Gupta in Evangelical Fellowship of India v. State of Himachal Pradesh case, as the court declared the section ultra vire to constitution.
Advocate Singh also mentioned before the bench that in counter affidavit filed by the State of Himachal Pradesh the same argument has been accepted.The counsel for the CJP informed the court that in 2019, they have re-enacted the law which was challenged in the court, earlier.
Seeking a stay on the impugned provision, CJP counsel argued that the provisions which had already been struck down, have to be stayed. The CJP challenging religious conversion laws of UK, HP, UP, MP, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, and Karnataka, has specifically challenged provisions which mandate prior notice to the District Magistrate to change one’s faith.
It is highlighted that this provision could create difficulties for inter-faith couples. The lawyer also stated that the Act is placing “unreasonable fetters” on persons wishing to convert from any faith, and in some cases even requiring persons wishing to convert to give a prior public declaration of their intention to convert, are violative of the rights of individuals to privacy, which is an essential component of Article 21, and also constitute an unreasonable restraint on their right to practice the religion of their choosing, a right protected by Article 25 of the Constitution.
However, CJI DY Chandrachud said that a hearing on merits was necessary to stay a statute. The bench adjourned the hearing directing the parties to complete the pleadings in four weeks.
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