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SC gives more time to eight States

They will respond to petitions against regulating inter-faith marriages and alleged unlawful conversion.

Statesman News Service | New Delhi |

The Supreme Court on Friday gave more time to eight states – Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand, Chhattisgarh, and Haryana – to respond to a batch of petitions challenging their respective laws regulating inter-faith marriages and curbing forced conversion as Himachal Pradesh was the lone State to file its reply.

Directing eight States to file their reply in three weeks, a bench of Chief Justice DY Chandrachud, Justice PS Narasimha and Justice JB Pardiwala gave petitioners two weeks thereafter to file their rejoinder and directed listing of the matters for hearing on the completion of pleadings.

The laws under the Supreme Court scanner include – Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Act, 2021, Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 2021, Himachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 2019, Uttarakhand Freedom of Religion Act, 2018, Gujarat Freedom of  Religion (Amendment) Act, 2021 and Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act, 2003, Chhattisgarh Dharma Swantantraya Adhiniyam [Freedom of Religion] Act, 1968, The Haryana Prevention of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Act, 2022, Jharkhand Freedom of Religion Act, 2017, Jharkhand Freedom of Religion Rules, 2017, and Karnataka Protection of , 2022.

The court in its order said that the reply filed by a State to a petition would extend to  other similar petitions challenging that State specific law.

Senior advocate Chander Uday Singh appearing for a petitioner urged the court to hear the matter early as every day processions were being taken out in Maharashtra on the alleged love Jihad and such emotive issues.

Pointing to the Himachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 2019, senior advocate CU Singh said that certain provisions of its 2006 law were struck down by the Supreme court but they reincarnated in the 2019 law.

The top court had on February 3 issued notice to the Centre and others on a plea seeking to transfer cases challenging the State laws regulating inter-faith marriages that were pending before the various High Courts to the top court.

The Attorney General R Venkataramani had opposed the transfer of petitions pending before different High Courts to itself.

The petitioners before seven High Courts challenges the laws to check conversion enacted by Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Uttarakhand, and Himachal Pradesh arising from inter-faith marriages.

Madhya Pradesh government is in appeal before the Supreme Court against the State High Court order striking down certain provisions of Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 2021.

In January 2021, the top court had agreed to examine the constitutional validity of a spate of laws enacted by State governments such as Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand that criminalise religious conversion via marriage and mandate prior official clearance before marrying into another faith.