The Allahabad High Court held on Thursday that a marriage registrar cannot withhold the registration of an interfaith marriage only because the husband or wife did not obtain the approval of the district authorities for conversion, Bar and Bench reported.

The court also said that the consent of the family, community or the state was not necessary if two adults had agreed to marry each other.

The High Court was hearing the petitions of 17 women in interfaith relationships, who stated that they had converted into another religion on their own free will. While some of them converted from Hinduism to Islam, some converted from Islam to Hinduism.

The petitioners said that they feared that there may be threats to their life, liberty and well-being.

Justice Suneet Kumar directed the police to ensure their safety, and give them protection, if demanded or needed.

The judge said that the marriage registrar cannot go into whether the validity of the marriage is void or voidable. “The authority, be it the Marriage Registrar/Officer, or the district authority under the Unlawful Conversion Act, 2021, is neither a court nor authorised by law to enter into the issue pertaining to the validity of marriage or prohibit interfaith marriage,” he said.

Justice Kumar said that the right of a person to choose their partner is not affected by matters of faith. “The choice of a partner, whether within or outside marriage, lies within the exclusive domain of each individual,” the judge observed. “Intimacies of marriage lie within a core zone of privacy, which is inviolable.”

The court said that the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Act, 2021 does not bar interfaith marriages, The Indian Express reported. However, it noted that parties to an interfaith marriage may face harassment.

The Act prohibits conversion by misrepresentation by force, misrepresentation or any fraudulent means. It requires a person intended to convert to another religion to give a 60-day notice to a magistrate, and requires the magistrate to conduct an inquiry about the intent behind the conversion.

The High Court said that anyone opposing the marriages can take recourse to both civil and criminal law before the appropriate forum. It noted that if the conversions fall within the ambit of the law against unlawful conversions, the petitioners would be liable to face penal provisions.