Gujarat: What is there in Section 5 of the Conversion Act that the High Court has refused to remove?

The High Court has refused to lift the stay on the basic provisions of the new law brought to prevent conversion in Gujarat.  The Gujarat government has announced to move the Supreme Court against the High Court’s stay.  The Gujarat Religious Freedom (Amendment) Act, 2021 was notified by the Gujarat government in June.  Under this, several amendments were made in the original Act of 2003.  The Gujarat unit of Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind and a Gujarati citizen named Mujahid Nafees had filed separate petitions in the High Court against the new law.  He said that many provisions of the new law are unconstitutional.

While hearing the matter, the High Court on August 19 had stayed Sections 3, 4, 4A, 4B, 4C, 5, 6 and 6A of the new law.  The court said that it is necessary to put a stop to these provisions to avoid unnecessary harassment to those who enter into inter-religious marriages without any coercion, greed or deceit.  Permission for conversion is the most controversial of these on Section 5.  According to this section, any religious priest has to take permission from the District Magistrate before converting anyone.  The convert will also have to inform the District Magistrate about this in a prescribed form.  The Gujarat government had appealed to the High Court to remove the ban imposed on this section, but the court rejected the appeal.

After this, Home and Law Minister in the state government Pradeep Singh Jadeja said in a statement that a weapon was brought in the form of the new anti-love jihad law which would destroy the jihadi forces who misbehaved with our daughters.  Jadeja said that Section 5 is the essence of the new law and to protect it, the state government will challenge the High Court order in the Supreme Court.

Earlier in the court, Advocate General Kamal Trivedi, on behalf of the government, had said that Section 5 does not mention inter-religious marriages and only deals with the permission for conversion, whether before marriage, after  Or be without marriage.  The question of inter-religious marriage, he said that by banning this section, no one will take permission from the government before converting, which means that in a way the entire law has been banned.  The court said that this is the government’s interpretation of the court’s order and the court has stayed not only this but all the sections related to permission.  Chief Justice Vikram Nath said, “If a bachelor wants to convert, he has to take permission.”  We have not stopped this.  We have only put a stop to the stream of conversion through marriage.  This is what we have said in the order’.

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