The Allahabad High Court has rejected petitions filed by eight Hindu-Muslim couples seeking protection of life on grounds that their interfaith marriages were not in compliance with the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Act, Bar & Bench reported on Monday.

The Act outlaws religious conversion through marriage, deceit, coercion or enticement. It is ostensibly meant to tackle “love jihad” – a conspiracy theory espoused by Hindutva groups, alleging that Hindu women are forcibly converted by Muslims through marriage.

The couples had approached the court through separate petitions seeking directions for their safety and non-interference in their matrimonial lives. In these eight cases, five Muslim men are married to Hindu women and three Hindu men are married Muslim women.

The petitions were dismissed between January 10 and January 16 by a single judge bench of Justice Saral Srivastava, Bar and Bench reported.

“In such view of the fact [that the marriages are not compliant with law], the relief prayed for by the petitioners cannot be granted,” the court said in identically worded orders, according to Bar and Bench. “However, it is open to the petitioners to prefer fresh writ petition in case they solemnise marriage after following the due procedure of law.”

The orders do not give specific reasons as to why the marriages were not compliant with the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Act, which makes forced religious conversion a non-bailable offence. It provides for penalties of up to 10 years in prison for those found guilty of using marriage to force someone to change their religion.

The law also states that if an individual wants to marry after converting to any other religion, they will need to take permission from the district magistrate two months before the wedding.

Also read: UP’s ‘love jihad’ law attacks Muslims, infantalises Hindu women – and curbs Dalit rights