The Uttar Pradesh government has moved the Supreme Court seeking to transfer the petitions pending before the Allahabad High Court against its anti-conversion ordinance, Bar and Bench reported on Tuesday. The top court is likely to hear the matter this week.

In its transfer plea, the Adityanath government has cited Article 139A of the Constitution, reported The New Indian Express. Article 139A empowers the Supreme Court to transfer or withdraw any case pending before any High Court to any other High Court or dispose it itself.

The development came to light on Monday when a plea challenging the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020, came up for hearing before the Allahabad High Court. After learning about the transfer petition, the High Court adjourned the case till January 25.

The ordinance against religious conversions was promulgated by Uttar Pradesh Governor Anandiben Patel on November 28, days after it was passed by the Adityanath-led state Cabinet. Since then, the police have arrested several Muslim men under the law.

The law is intended to target “love jihad” – a 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 them to Islam.

The ordinance was challenged before the Allahabad High Court on the grounds that it violates privacy and individual freedom guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution. On December 18, the High Court issued notices to the Uttar Pradesh government, asking it to file counter affidavits to a batch of petitions challenging the law. The court, however, refused to grant interim relief in the form of a stay order.

Later, petitions were filed before the Supreme Court challenging the ordinance as well as a similar law enacted by Uttarakhand in 2018. Earlier this month, the Supreme Court had agreed to examine the constitutional validity of anti-conversion laws enacted by Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, but refused to stay the controversial legislations in these states.

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.

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