Conversion approval not required for interfaith marriage registration: Allahabad HC

Court bats for interfaith unions; reiterates consent from family, clan State, not required before marriage between consenting adults of different faiths

Allahabad HC

In a landmark ruling, the Allahabad High Court has empowered interfaith couples by categorically stating that the Registrar of Marriages cannot hold off on registering interfaith marriages just because approval of conversion from district authorities is pending. The court was hearing a batch of petitions from aggrieved interfaith couples facing harassment and intimidation from both, their families and local authorities.

In its order dated November 18, the court said, “The Marriage Officer/Registrar cannot refuse to register a duly solemnized marriage, and/or, insist of a conversion approval of the district authority.” Further treating relationships between consenting adults with the dignity that they deserve, the court also clarified, “The consent of the family or the community or the clan or the State or Executive is not necessary, once the two adult individuals agree to enter into a wedlock which is lawful and legal. Their consent has to be piously given primacy, with grace and dignity.”

The court went on to further clarify, “The factum of marriage and the registration of marriage are entirely distinct and different.” It also emphasised the importance of privacy saying, “The choice of a partner, whether within or outside marriage, lies within the exclusive domain of each individual. Intimacies of marriage lie within a core zone of privacy, which is inviolable. The absolute right of an individual to choose a life partner is not in the least affected by matters of faith.”

Granting relief to the couples who had petitioned the court, it ordered, “The State respondents and the private respondents are restrained from interfering with the life, liberty and privacy of the petitioners to live as man and woman.” It further ordered, “The police authorities of the respective districts shall ensure the safety of the petitioners and provide protection to them, if demanded or needed.”

As far as Marriage Registrars are concerned, the court ordered, “The Marriage Registrar/Officer of respective districts are directed to forthwith register the marriage of the petitioners, without, insisting/awaiting approval of the competent district authority with regard to conversion of faith.”

The Allahabad HC judgment may be read here: 

SabrangIndia has been reporting on how police have been cracking down on interfaith couples, especially in the states of Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat. However, almost every time such a couple has approached the court, they have been granted some degree of respite, their decision as consenting adults respected. Therefore, while the Legislature and the Executive are letting down India’s youth by adding obstacles in the path of true love, it is the courts that have so far played a part in protecting and defending the rights of interfaith couples.

The key reason why there has been an increase in harassment of interfaith couples is the passage of ordinances pertaining to prohibition of “unlawful conversions” that have been passed in four states: Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh. In addition to this, there is also the 2021 amendment to the Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act. The original Act of 2003 prohibited conversion by force or allurement, however the 2021 amendment makes “conversion by marriage” an offence which is one of the many common threads between the anti-conversion laws passed in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh as well.

In fact, in December 2020, Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) had challenged the laws in UP and Uttarakhand before the Indian Supreme Court. Then in February 2021, CJP amended its petition to include MP and HP as well. All four laws have been challenged on grounds that they are discriminatory and anti-women, and that they also contravene the right to privacy and personal liberty of citizens by criminalising inter-faith unions. Thus, CJP has prayed for the Uttarakhand Freedom of Religion Act (2018), Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance (2020), Madhya Pradesh to Freedom of Religion Ordinance (2020) and Himachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act (2019) to be declared anti-Constitutional and struck down.


Police cracking down on voluntary interfaith unions in Guj, UP

Anti-conversion law will not apply to inter-faith marriages unless there is force, fraud, allurement: Gujarat HC



Related Articles