The Uttarakhand High Court recently came to the rescue of a couple where the partners had married across religions. In this case, the woman had converted to Hinduism from Islam before marrying her Hindu husband.
The couple had approached the court, fearing that the woman’s brothers might physically harm them.
A bench of Justices Sudhanshu Dhulia and Ravindra Maithani said that they were not commenting on the merits of the marriage or the earlier conversion of the woman from Islam to Hinduism, “as it is prima facie in violation of the Uttarakhand Freedom of Religion Act, 2018.”
The law the judges referred to is aimed against forcible religious conversions and provides that marriages done for the sole purpose of conversion are null and void (Section 6). Section 8 of the Act penalises religious conversion without a month’s prior notice to the concerned District Magistrate.
In this case, the court held that there was no permission obtained from the District Magistrate. However, the petitioners asserted that they had moved an application (as required under Section 8), but that no decision has yet been taken on it.
Studying an exchange between the man and his wife, the court noted that they had appeared articulate and that both had apprised the court about the likely threat to their lives from the woman’s family.
The court first ordered the district magistrate in Haridwar to inquire why the woman’s application for conversion had not been processed. If it had been processed, asked the court, why was it not informed when it had been processed, the order said.
Further, in the interest of justice, and given the Supreme Court’s rulings in the case of Lata Singh versus State of Uttar Pradesh and S Khushboo versus Kanniammal, the court directed the police to give the couple protection as an interim measure.
The matter will be up for hearing next in March 2021.
On a related note, a petitioner had recently moved the Supreme Court, challenging the constitutionality of the Uttarakhand Freedom of Religion Act as well as the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020.