The Supreme Court on Monday dismissed the Uttar Pradesh government’s plea to transfer to the court all petitions filed in the Allahabad High Court challenging the new law that criminalises interfaith marriages, Live Law reported. A bench headed by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde took exception to the request, and asserted that no constitutional court should be taken lightly.
“If the Allahabad High Court is going to decide the cases, why should we interfere?” the top court asked. “We have issued notice does not mean High Court cannot decide. People are making light of High Courts these days. The High Court is a constitutional court.”
Advocate PS Narasimha, appearing for the Uttar Pradesh government, urged the Supreme Court to allow the transfer petitions to avoid multiplicity of proceedings before the High Court and the Supreme Court. “Similar petitions are pending in the High Courts,” he argued.
In its transfer plea, the Adityanath government had cited Article 139A of the Constitution. 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.
But the Supreme Court on Monday expressed its disinclination to transfer the petitions. “If the Allahabad High Court is seized of it, and we are not going to hear before it, why should we stop the High Court?” the bench reiterated. “We would like to have the judgement of the High Court also.”
On January 6, the Supreme Court had refused to stay the anti-interfaith love law brought by Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, while hearing petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the legislations. On the day as well, the court had asked the petitioners to approach the Allahabad High Court. However, the bench of CJI Bobde had issued notices and sought response from both the state governments.
Meanwhile, the Uttar Pradesh government filed a counter-affidavit in the Allahabad High Court, and requested Chief Justice Govind Mathur to adjourn the matter sine die. Additional Advocate General Manish Goyal submitted that since the Supreme Court had already taken cognisance of the matter and has issued notice to the state government, it may not be appropriate for the High Court to continue the hearing.
The Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020 was promulgated by Governor Anandiben Patel on November 28, days after it was passed by the Adityanath-led state Cabinet. On paper, the law attempts to criminalises forced religious conversions. But experts say the law is being used to give legal credence to Hindutva theories of “love jihad” – an unproven conspiracy theory that Muslim men charm Hindu women into marrying them with the sole purpose of converting them to Islam. The police have arrested several Muslim men under the law.