While refusing the Allahabad High Court from going ahead with the hearing of the matter, a bench headed by SA Bobde said that it would like to have the advantage of having a decision of the High Court,
“People are making light of High Courts these days. High Courts are constitutional courts,” it noted.
As the bench wasn’t included to entertain the transfer petition, Senior Advocate representing the Uttar Pradesh government, PS Narasimha, chose to withdraw it, and accordingly, the petition was dismissed as withdrawn.
The UP government had filed an application under Article 139A seeking transfer of the pending petition in the High Court to the Apex court. When cases involving the same or substantially the same questions of law are pending before the Supreme Court and one or more High Courts, the Apex Court has the power to withdraw the cases pending before the High Court and dispose of such cases itself.
While advocate Narasimha argued in order to avoid multiplicity of proceedings before the High court and the Supreme Court, the bench stated that it could not stop the constitutional validity of the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020.
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An individual who forcefully marries a girl for the sheer purpose of converting her religion can face a punishment of up to 10 years in jail. Such a marriage will be declared null and void. Besides this, mass conversions shall be punishable with a jail term of 3-10 years and a fine of Rs.50,000 on the organizations conducting it. If someone wants to convert to another religion, he/she has to submit an application to the District Magistrate two months in advance.
In a counter-affidavit before the Allahabad High Court, the Uttar Pradesh government submitted that the Constitution abhors forceful conversion particularly in the matter of Religion.
It said that the ordinance was passed in “public interest” as there is a fear psychosis in the society at large. Among many examples of what constitutes a forceful conversion cited in the counter affidavit, one of them was a Hindu woman’s conversion to Islam after marriage with a Muslim man.
The Uttar Pradesh Government had moved the Supreme Court last week seeking transfer of petitions challenging its ordinance aimed at checking unlawful religious conversion for inter-faith marriages. The state government had invoked Article 139A of the Constitution, which empowers the Supreme Court to transfer to itself cases “involving the same or substantially the same questions of law” pending before the top court and one or more HCs.
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