By: Fatima Hasan

Amidst the rising cases of arrests made under “Love Jihad” and the whole controversy surrounding it, the recent Supreme Court’s refusal to entertain a plea against the conversions is a welcome move. The decision also sends a signal to revisit the Anti-conversion legislation adopted by Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh on its merits.

The bench said “there is no reason why a person above 18 can’t be allowed to choose his religion,”  asserted that persons above 18 years of age are free to choose their religion and stressed on the word “propagate” enshrined in Article 26 of the Indian constitution.

The Majority Act of 1875 Section 3(1) states that every person domiciled in India shall attain the age of majority on completion of 18 years and not before. He will be treated to be fully conscious and free to take all legal decisions. 

But, on the other side of the coin, Anti-conversion laws are regulating religious conversions and provide for stiffer penalties if women, children, or members of Scheduled Castes or Schedule tribes (SC/ST) are being converted and thus curtailing the freedom and the right of the majority. Under these laws, in place in 3 States, including Himachal Pradesh, the police have already arrested scores of persons. 

The arrests made under the anti-conversion laws can be taken as  similar to the lynching of people  that was taking place on pretext of alleged cow slaughter etc. Hence, why is the Supreme Court silent on the provisions of anti-conversion bills?  Now, the apex court needs to take up cognizance of the situation and direct the state governments to re-define the purpose of the anti-conversion acts.

The SC decision not to entertain a plea on Love Jihad that was allegedly in vogue in the country is a good sign. The petitioner had sought direction to the Central government on appointing a committee to punish conversion, by claiming that conversions violate Articles 14, 21 and 25 and also the secular fabric of the country.

But interestingly, Article 25 guarantees the freedom of conscience, the freedom to profess, practice and propagate religion to all citizens, i.e., it provides  for  freedom to select religion, continue the faith and also the freedom to change it when one wants to. On the question of it violating the principle of secularism, it should be deemed to promote it by way of mixing of religions. When a person above 18 is treated elder and is free to choose anything, then why cannot he choose a religion of his own choice and who gives the State  the right to intervene?. 

“It is a very objective observation made by the Supreme Court. It will undo the damage caused by the severely wrongful legislations enacted by the BJP-ruled States. The above-18 teens should be deemed to be free individuals and this decision can be invoked in so-called cases of Love Jihad also,” an AIMIM leader said on condition of anonymity. 

The Supreme Court’s decision also upholds the integrity of the Indian diversity and multi-cultureless. It is high time that the inter-caste and inter-faith marriages should be celebrated rather than punished. The apex court can now intervene and render the arrests made under the anti-conversion laws as unconstitutional and declare these laws as void with retrospective effect. This, the Supreme Court can do so by taking national interest in consideration.