The Muslim clerics’ body, in an impleadment application in the PIL filed by Vishal Thakre, raised the issue of fundamental rights of the Muslim youth, who are being targeted through this Ordinance and contended it is being used to demonise them.
The plea said the Ordinance is unconstitutional being violative of Articles 14, 21 and 25 of the Constitution.
“Ordinance attempts to regulate a personal decision of each human being by encroaching upon an individual’s choice to convert to a religion of his/her choice. It is submitted that scrutiny by the state of such a personal decision is a grave assault on personal liberty of an individual and is violative of Article 21,” said the plea.
The plea said that apart from the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020 and the Uttarakhand Freedom of Religion Act, 2018, Himachal Pradesh (Himachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 2019) has also enacted a similar legislation. A similar legislation is in Madhya Pradesh where the Cabinet cleared the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Bill 2020.
“Ordinance seeks to address the mischief of forcible conversion, however it provides that reconversion to a person’s previous religion is not illegal, even if it is vitiated by fraud, force, allurement, misrepresentation and so on”, said the Muslim body.
The organisation has argued that the Ordinance reverses the rule of burden of proof in criminal law. “It is submitted that burden of proof in criminal cases is on the prosecution, and the presumption is that a person accused of committing an offence is innocent until proven guilty. However, the Impugned Ordinance proceeds on the presumption that each religious conversion is illegal,” said the plea.
The application, filed through advocate Ejaz Maqbool, contended that the Ordinance made it a criminal offence to convert a person by offering him or her an “allurement”, which is very broadly defined, for example including gifting of a book containing teachings of Islam.
“It is submitted that obligation to seek permission for conversion two months in advance is fundamentally arbitrary and a violation of the right to privacy,” said the organisation.