This assumes significance as Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath had referred to the judgement on November 1, as the basis for a new law that would criminalise “love jihad”, a conspiracy theory used by right-wing groups who accuse Muslim men of converting Hindu women by marriage. Soon, other Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled states like Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and Assam announced that they were considering similar laws.
A division bench of Justices Vivek Agarwal and Pankaj Naqvi on Monday held that neither of the two judgements – one passed in September, and the other in 2014 – that made this observation dealt with the matters of life and liberty of “two mature individuals in choosing a partner, or their right to freedom of choice as to whom they would like to live” with. “We hold the judgements in Noor Jahan and Priyanshi as not laying as good law,” the High Court said on Monday.
The court order essentially said that it does not matter whether a conversion is valid or not. The right of two adults to live together cannot be encroached upon by the state or others.
On September 29, a bench of Justice Mahesh Tripathi had dismissed a writ petition filed by a married couple seeking police protection, noting that the woman was a Muslim and had converted to Hinduism purely in order to get married. Though the judgement was delivered in September, it was reported in the media in October. Tripathi cited a 2014 order passed by the same court, where a batch of writ petitions were dismissed in a similar case.
In the Noor Jahan Begum case of 2014, the Allahabad High Court had dismissed a batch of writ petitions filed by a couple to seek protection as they had tied the knot after the woman converted from Hinduism to Islam and then performed the nikah or marriage. “Whether conversion of the religion of a Hindu girl at the instance of a Muslim boy, without any knowledge of Islam or faith and belief in Islam and merely for the purpose of marriage [nikah] is valid,” the court had asked then.