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Allahabad High Court issues notice on plea challenging Uttar Pradesh anti-conversion act

The High Court’s bench comprising Chief Justice Sanjay Yadav and Justice Siddhartha Varma refused to allow the amendment application and asked petitioners to file afresh as the Ordinance has been replaced with an Act.

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The Allahabad High Court on Wednesday issued notice on a plea challenging the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Religious Conversion Act 2021. A batch of petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the Ordinance has been withdrawn with the liberty to file fresh petitions challenging the new Act.

The High Court bench comprising Chief Justice Sanjay Yadav and Justice Siddhartha Varma refused to allow the amendment application and asked petitioners to file afresh as the Ordinance has been replaced with an Act. The bench has issued notice on a plea filed by Association for Advocacy and Legal Initiatives through Advocate Vrinda Grover and has granted time to file counter-affidavits and rejoinders for those petitions filed after the notification of the Act.

The court observed, “Your affidavit says you have filed an ‘elaborated and exhaustive’ petition. We are not going to allow this.How can you amend the entire petition? We can only allow you to amend the prayer clause. Otherwise withdraw or we are dismissing this”.

Advocate Dinesh Saxena, appearing for one of the petitioners, submitted that there has not been any material change in their pleadings and only the word ‘Ordinance’ has been replaced with the word ‘Act’. 

The petition is elaborate because the word ‘Ordinance’ is appearing so many times. But there is no material change. A lot of time will be wasted if we file afresh because arguments have already been led, he insisted before withdrawing the petitions with liberty to file afresh challenging the new Act.

The Act, meanwhile, was passed in February this year, specifically criminalizing conversion by marriage.

The batch of PILs challenged the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020 promulgated by the UP Governor in November this year, prohibiting religious conversions during marriage. The petitioners include Advocate Saurabh Kumar, represented by Advocates Devesh Saxena, Shashwat Anand and Vishesh Rajvanshi; and  Ajit Singh Yadav, represented by Advocate Ramesh Kumar. 

According to the petition, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath gave a statement on October 31, 2020 that his Government will bring a law against love jihad. They believe that a Muslim man’s marries a Hindu woman just to convert her to Islam.

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The petitioners contended that the ordinance impinges upon their fundamental right to choice and the right to change of faith.They had also submitted that there was no emergent ground to exercise the ordinance making power under Article 213 of the Constitution and that the state failed to show any unforeseen or urgent situation to justify the law.

Earlier, the Supreme Court had refused to entertain petitions against the law, and directed the parties to approach the High Court.

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