The much controversial love jihad bill passed recently in Gujarat has been stomped after being challenged in the Gujarat High Court. Three cases under the “love jihad” law have been registered to date in Gujarat from which two cases were registered in Vadodara and one in Rajkot. The accused in all the cases registered being Muslims. The first arrest was made in June on a 26-year-old man named Samir Qureshi after he was accused of assuming a fake identity to lure a woman and pressurising her after forcibly marrying her. In the second case registered, three men –Mohib Pathan, 25, his father and brother were arrested by Vadodara police. While earlier this month, another Muslim man was arrested under the same law in Dhoraji town of Rajkot in Saurashtra region of the state.
“Love jihad” law has been challenged in the Gujarat High Court by two minority rights organisations. A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) has been filed by these organisations , one being a Gujarat-based minority organisation and the other, Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, an organization of Islamic scholars. The PIL was filed in the court on July 19 claiming that the law was unconstitutional and was to be heard on July 28 however it has been postponed to be heard between August 5 and August 8.
Mujahid Nafees, the Convenor of Minority Coordination Committee said that the law goes against the basic right to religious freedom guaranteed by the constitution of India. He further stated that the amended law also violated the freedom in the Special Marriage Act of 1954 and that the state should not interfere in such matters prohibiting personal freedom. The act was also a violation of Article 51A (f) of the Constitution of India which clearly states that it is the duty of every citizen of the country to promote harmony irrespective of religious, linguistic, regional or communal differences. As per Nafees, this law is a clear violation of the equality of all before Article 14 of the Constitution of India.
Nafees had earlier sent a letter to the Governor claiming that the political leaders are imposing their parochial agenda on the choice of women. The letter further read claimed that this was strictly a political agenda as the Home Minister had not given any concrete figures in the purpose and reasons of this law, also there was no mention of a number of cases in the state of religious conversion which was clearly visible through Home Minister’s hate speech towards Muslims.
The amended Gujarat Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Bill, 2021 that prohibits forcible conversion by marriage includes “better lifestyle” as an allurement and awards punishment of three to 10 years of imprisonment for such religious conversion. Under this act, any religious conversation made for marriage is punishable for three or more years of jail and a fine not less than Rs 2 lakh. Notably, before the Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act had been amended, the judiciary, in multiple instances, had come to the rescue of couples in interfaith marriages.