The Madhya Pradesh High Court, held that provisions which require inter-faith couples to declare conversion before collector to be prima facie unconstitutional. This was held in the case of Rev. Suresh Carleton & Ors v State of MP & Ors and connected pleas [WRIT PETITION NO.6263 OF 2021], which was presided over by Justice Sujoy Paul and Justice Prakash Chandra Gupta.
FACTS OF THE CASE
Learned Advocate General raised objection regarding maintainability of the petitions on twin grounds. Firstly, the relief claimed in the petitions is vague and Clause 7(2) of prayer clause does not specify as to which provisions of Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 2021 (hereinafter referred as ‘Act of 2021’) are unconstitutional. In absence of any specific relief being prayed for, the whole Act cannot be declared as ultra vires. Moreso, when petitioners are unable to show that whole Act is brought into force by the State without their being any legislative competence for the same. Secondly, the impugned Act of 2021 is almost similar to Madhya Pradesh Dharma Swatantraya Adhiniyam, 1968 (hereinafter referred as “1968 Adhiniyam”).
It was also submitted that if the impugned act is permitted to stand it will not only infringe the valuable fundamental rights but will disturb harmony of the society. Stressing that every citizen has a valuable right not to disclose his belief, the petitioners strongly submitted before the Court that a citizen is under no obligation either to disclose his own religion or his intention to switch over to another religion.
On the other hand, the State argued that the petitioners are claiming a blanket interim relief that cannot be granted and if interim relief is granted, it will amount to giving them final relief. It was further contended that the endeavor of the Court should be to uphold the constitutionality of the enactment.
JUDGEMENT OF THE CASE
Considering the Supreme Court judgement cited, in our considered opinion, a strong prima facie case is made out by the petitioners for grant of interim protection in relation to marriage of two adult citizens on their volition and against any coercive action for violation of Section 10,” the court said.
The court made reference of the case, India and Anr. Vs. State of H.P. 2012, which declared a provision of H.P. Freedom of Religion Act, 2006 as unconstitutional which required the citizens to inform the authorities about their wish to change their religion.
The HC granted three weeks’ time to the state to file its para-wise reply to the petitions. The court also said the petitioners may file rejoinder within 21 days thereafter.
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JUDGEMENT REVIEWED BY VYSHNAVI KRISHNAN.