The Supreme Court on Wednesday agreed to examine the constitutional validity of anti-conversion laws enacted by Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, but refused to stay the controversial legislations, Live Law reported. The court issued notices to the states on petitions challenging the laws.

Uttar Pradesh had passed the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020, in November. Since then, the police have arrested several Muslim men under the law. The Uttarakhand Freedom of Religion Act, 2018, also prohibits the conversion of religion for marriage.

A bench comprising Chief Justice of India SA Bobde and Justices V Ramasubramanian and AS Bopanna was hearing petitions filed by lawyer Vishal Thakre and a non-governmental organisation named Citizens for Justice and Peace.

Senior Advocate Chander Uday Singh, representing Citizens for Justice and Peace, told the court that the provisions of the laws were “oppressive”. He added that the requirement to obtain prior permission to marry someone from a different faith was “obnoxious”. The lawyer also said that “rampaging mobs” had been picking up people from weddings, according to the Hindustan Times.

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The petitions also stated that the laws created division in society, according to NDTV. They questioned the grant of excessive power to the police.

The chief justice initially asked the petitioners to approach the Allahabad High Court, Live Law reported. He agreed to hear them after the lawyers informed him that they were challenging the laws of the two states. The petitioners’ lawyers added that more states like Madhya Pradesh and Haryana were considering enacting similar laws.

The anti-conversion laws seek to penalise “love jihad” – pejorative term coined by the right-wing groups to push the conspiracy theory that Muslim men charm Hindu women into marrying them with the sole purpose of converting their brides to Islam. Apart from Uttar Pradesh, four other BJP-ruled states – Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Haryana and Assam – have also decided to introduce laws aimed at preventing inter-faith marriage.

The Centre itself told the Lok Sabha in February that no “case of ‘love jihad’ had been reported by any of the central agencies”. Investigations by the National Investigation Agency and the Karnataka Criminal Investigation Department have turned up no evidence for this alleged conspiracy either. The National Commission for Women maintains no data about “love jihad” too.