Why are Allahabad HC’s orders refusing police protection to inter-faith couples, wrong in law and principle?

Interfaith couples and those without marriage registration proof in Uttar Pradesh find themselves without constitutional rights recourse as the Allahabad HC selectively rejects their pleas for police protection

In the space of just one week, between January 10 to January 16 this year, the Allahabad High Court bench comprising Justice Saral Srivastava rejected eight applications requesting police protection. The pleas were made by the interfaith couples who alleged a threat to their lives by their relatives or family members.

A close analysis of the judgements of the court has revealed a telling pattern. The married couples whose applications for police protection got rejected were either in an inter-faith relationship or those who did not have a valid marriage registration proof. It is also crucial to note that couples who were from the same faith or religion, as far as they had completed their marriage registration process, even if they did not have a valid marriage certificate, faced no such hurdles in getting police protection. This dichotomy has resulted in a situation where inter-caste couples within the same religion are readily able to secure the necessary protection from the courts while their counterparts who come from different religions are finding it difficult to secure police protection for their safety and liberty.

The culture of honour killing is not uncommon within conservative Indian families and the lack of protection for interfaith couples in the face of real-life threats not only affect their right to life and personal liberty but also their right to peaceful marriage, uninterrupted from external forces.

In the judgements delivered by Justice Saral Srivastava in January and the March 5 judgment of Justice Renu Agarwal, the judges have cited non-compliance with the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Act, 2021 as one of the reasons for denying police protection to the interfaith couples. Prior to the implementation of this law, which was brought in to check what the Hindu-right calls “Love Jihad”, interfaith couples were still able to secure the protection. Though there are also other reasons for denying the protection, we are witnessing a growing trend where Allahabad HC is asking couples to first comply with the Conversion Act of 2021, and solemnize their marriage and register for the marriage certificates in compliance with the Act, in order to secure the protection of the law.

Citizens for Justice and Peace is the lead petitioner that has challenged the 2021 Uttar Pradesh Anti-Conversion law and a similar law passed in eight other states. The first petition challenging the anti-conversion laws of was filed in December 2020, which argued against the constitutionality of these laws enacted by the states of Uttar Pradesh (which initially issued it through an ordinance before enacting the Act), Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, and Madhya Pradesh (WP Criminal Nos 428/2020). In December 2021, it filed another petition, this time challenging the similar laws passed by Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Haryana and Karnataka (WP Criminal Nos 14/2023). CJP argued that the said laws are violative of Article 14 (due process), 21 (right to life and personal liberty), and 25 (freedom of conscience and religion), and therefore unconstitutional.

The laws were challenged as excessively restrictive on the constitutional provisions related to fundamental rights on the following issues: autonomy of women and both partners on the issue of free choice, right to privacy, freedom to practice and propagate religion, secularism, and for creating gender stereotypes and excessive criminalisation. These laws essentially “aim” to restrict religious conversion for the sole purpose of marriage or vice versa, but their implementation reveals that they have been weaponised to target interfaith couples and marriages, thereby restricting the ability to marry a person of one’s choice and jeopardising the security of such partners.

In the meantime, the number of states which started enacting such laws grew as the petitions challenging these laws have been kept pending in the Supreme Court with attempts made by CJP for an urgent hearing and stay on the application of these laws. T Notably, CJP’s writ petition challenging UP’s anti-conversion law was last listed on April 25, 2023, almost a year ago.

Let us look at some of the cases to understand the implications for the fundamental rights of persons living in Uttar Pradesh.

Case Study

On January 10, 2024, the Allahabad HC bench of Justice Saral Srivastava dismissed a petition filed by one Ayesha Parveen for securing police protection. The judgement noted that, “It is a case of interfaith marriage as petitioner no.2 follows Muslim religion whereas petitioner no.1 is Hindu. In the instant case, there is no compliance of Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Act, 2021, therefore, solemnisation of marriage between petitioner no.1 and petitioner no.2 is not in accordance with law.” Thus, the court dismissed their petition. The judgement in the case does not cite any particular provision(s) of the law, which is jurisprudentially unsustainable. It remains completely silent on the issue whether conversion law would kick in even if the inter faith couples did not want to get converted and were willing to practice their religions as before the marriage. But even if one of the partners was willing to convert their religion, this does not prevent courts from granting protection to such couples in the interim.

The judgement maybe read here:

Recently, in the case of Devu G Nair vs State of Kerala the Supreme Court issued guidelines in which it asked courts to stay away from moralising the issue of inter-faith, inter-caste, and LGBTQ+ couples and emphasised on providing immediate interim protection to such couples. The relevant portion of the guidelines mentioned that, “The court must acknowledge that some intimate partners may face social stigma and a neutral stand of the law would be detrimental to the fundamental freedoms of the appellant. Therefore, a court while dealing with a petition for police protection by intimate partners on the grounds that they are a same sex, transgender, inter-faith or inter-caste couple must grant an ad-interim measure, such as immediately granting police protection to the petitioners, before establishing the threshold requirement of being at grave risk of violence and abuse…”.

The Supreme Court judgement may be read here:

The recent Allahabad HC rulings denying such protection to the interfaith couples fly in the face of the recent SC guidelines, but even before these guidelines were issued, the law had already established that privacy and safety of couples is of paramount importance and social mores should not come in the way of the fundamental rights of citizens. Through the judicial precedents set in Shakti Vahini vs Union of India and Shafin Jahan v Ashokan K.M the Supreme Court has made it clear that the right to marry a person of one’s choice is integral to Article 21, within the exclusive domain of an individual, and is a part of the core zone of privacy and individual liberty, which is inviolable. Given such precent, UP’s law on conversion itself remains precarious and the petitions challenging the validity of various conversion laws across several states have been pending in the SC.

On January 11, 2024, the bench of Justice Saral Srivastava again rejected the protection plea of the interfaith couple filed by one Farha on exactly the same ground as it mentioned in its January 10 judgement. The judgements look identical except for the fact that the petitioners have changed. In both these judgments, it put a caveat, stating that “it is open to the petitioners to prefer fresh writ petition in case they solemnise marriage after following the due procedure of law.”

The judgement maybe read here:

But it is precisely the compliance with the provisions of the UP’s Draconian conversion law that is putting interfaith couples on the edge. The Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Act, 2021 requires the person who before or after the marriage intends to convert or converts his/her religion, to send a prior notice informing about her decision to convert to District Magistrate (DM) or Additional District Magistrate 60 days in advance, stating that the conversion is not forced, and is completely out of freewill. This is followed by an inquiry ordered by the DM and the publication of the particular details of the person who intends to convert on the notice board of the DM, and then if any objections are raised to the conversion it will have to be noted by the DM. This very process scares away the partners who intend to convert, as all the particular details including permanent address and present place of the stay will be publicly displayed on the DM’s wall, for anybody to harass the couples, further endangering their safety and security. Pertinently, the burden of proof is reversed and if any accusation of unfair conversion is alleged, the accused has to defend herself that the conversion was not unfair or influenced by extraneous factors.

The UP’s (anti)conversion law may be read here:

Even in other cases, where we are not sure about the religion of the couples, the court is dismissing the petitions for the security of couples merely on the ground that there is no valid proof of marriage available. In one such case, the same bench declined the request of Kajal Rani for the police protection on January 16, 2024, stating that “there is no proof of marriage of petitioners on record, therefore, the relief prayed for by the petitioners cannot be granted”. It has been observed that the bench is consistently asking such petitioners to file fresh petitions with a valid proof of marriage.

The judgement maybe read here:

There are also other grounds on the basis of which the HC is declining the petitions, including on the ground that the HC has no jurisdiction to provide such protection, but that does not seem to be a valid argument. On January 10, 2024, the bench declined to grant any security to the petitioner Khushboo Pandey, arguing that is it the father of the petitioner who is interfering with the married life of petitioners, and since he is staying in Satna, Madhya Pradesh, it is beyond the jurisdiction of the HC to grant protection to the couples who are staying in Banda, Uttar Pradesh! The fact that both the couples are living in Banda, where the UP police can provide protection to the couple is completely out of consideration for the bench.

The judgement maybe read here:

Still another reason for the bench to refuse the protection to couples is the registration of FIR by or against the couples (the judgement does not readily help identify who has registered the FIR), which again is difficult to comprehend. While dismissing the plea for police protection in a petition filed by Smt. Sariya, the court recorded in its reason that “F.I.R. has been lodged in the present case. The instructions containing the details of F.I.R. is taken on record. In view of the above, the relief prayed for by the petitioners cannot be granted. Therefore, the writ petition is dismissed…”

The judgement maybe read here:

Selective protection by the Court

It is not the case that the bench is not granting police protection to couples in general, the same bench had been generous in granting protection to numerous couples who had either completed their marriage registration process and were awaiting marriage registration certificate or those who already possessed such certificate. The problem arises when the couples have not completed their marriage registration process or do not possess marriage registration certificate, this is most likely the interfaith couples, who due to the draconian nature of the UP’s conversion law have been facing hurdles in completing their marriage registration process. Thus, interfaith couples are most hit by the judicial neglect, which makes them doubly vulnerable, firstly at the hands of their families, and secondly at the hands of the law. Again, to reiterate the point, even if the UP’s anti-conversion law is draconian, the courts still cannot decline the protection to such couples on the ground that certificate is missing or registration process is not completed. The binding precedents and guidelines are beyond doubt in this regard.

Further analysis of Allahabad HC judgements reveals that even while granting police protection to couples, the court does not directly order the police to provide the security to the couples, rather the judgements provides that “In case any disturbance is caused in the peaceful living of the petitioners, the petitioners shall approach the concerned police authority, with a certified copy of this order, who shall provide immediate protection to the petitioners.” This is despite the fact and acknowledgement by the HC that police authorities failed to intervene when the couples had first approached them. After the judgement, the police are most likely to provide the protection to avoid contempt, but the process still puts entire burden on the inter-caste/interfaith couples to slog after the authorities.

The representative order maybe read here:

Moralising judgements and dangerous interlinkage between conversion and marriage

On January 16 this year, the bench of Justice Saral Srivastava dismissed a petition for police protection filed by Nagma Bano and also imposed cost of Rs. 10,000 on the petitioner. The petitioner in this case Nagma Bano was forcefully remarried after the dead of her first husband, and had been living with her partner since running away from her house. She argued that she never accepted the Nikahnama in which she was forcefully married, and therefore her live-in relationship with her partner should be secured from the outside interference, including from her husband Azad with to whom she was forcefully married.

The court while rejecting her petition noted that “…she has not accepted the Nikahnama, but the fact remains that the marriage was solemnized. The marriage may be illegal, but that issue may be determined by a Court of law. Merely, because petitioner no.1 denies that she had not accepted the Nikahnama does not prove the marriage to be illegal when it is not disputed that the petitioner no.1 was present and participated in the Nikahnama. She only disputes the fact that she has not accepted the Nikahnama.”

The same judgement records that “In the present case, till date the marriage of the petitioner no.1 with respondent no.10 is not declared illegal or dissolved as per law, no civilised society can accept the living of married partner with a third person, and the Court under law in such condition is not obliged to come to rescue of such person who is living in a society not as per the norms, ethics and values of the society.”

The judgement maybe read here:

Another pressuring concern that has arisen due to UP’s anti-conversion law is the vicious interlinkage drawn between conversion and marriage. As a matter of fact, conversion and marriage are two separate issues, dealing with separate spheres of life and there are specific laws for the same. But in line with the theory of Love Jihad, propagated by the Hindutva forces, they believe that interfaith marriages are essentially meant to convert peoples, more specifically, gullible Hindu girls being converted to Islam through fraudulent means. Apart from the theory being anti-women and irrational, it promotes a masculinist tendency and takes away the voice of women vis-à-vis their right to marry a person of their choice. UP’s anti-conversion law has been doing something similar.

The judgement delivered on March 5 this year by Justice Renu Agarwal of the Allahabad High takes the power of the anti-conversion law even further. While rejecting the plea of Mariya Zameel requesting the court order to stop interference in the peaceful living of the couples, the judgement recorded that the “Explanation goes to show that conversion is not only required for the purpose of marriage, but it is also required in all relationship in the nature of marriage, therefore, Conversion Act applies to relationship in the nature of marriage or live-in- relationship. Petitioners have not yet applied for conversion as per provisions of Section 8 and 9 of the Act, hence, the relationship of petitioners cannot be protected in contraventions of the provisions of law.”

In this case, the bench did not consider the marriage registration certificate issued by Arya Samaj, and the submission made by the petitioner that they have applied online for registration of their marriage before the competent authority, which is pending at their end. In a similar situation, had the couple been from same religion they would have faced no such issues, as the compliance with the conversion law will not be required.

Essentially, as per this interpretation by the Allahabad High Court, interfaith couples will not get any protection of the law unless conversion is first formalised under the UP’s (anti)conversion Act of 2021. This is despite the pendency of constitutional challenges to this law in the Supreme Court by Citizens for Justice and Peace and others.

The judgement maybe read here:


The dangerous implication and impact of the Allahabad High Court’s judgments coupled with the stringent provisions of the conversion law has virtually made it impossible for interfaith couples to secure any protection for their lives and liberty, severely affecting the effectiveness of Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. The fact that the high court of Allahabad is a constitutional court also means that these orders can impact other states, especially in states also ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that have brought in similar laws. While the Allahabad High Court certainly needs a course correction in the face of the latest guidelines issued by the Supreme Court, this is expected to be a long drawn legal battle as we will see the constitutional validity of these conversion laws being challenged and debated in the apex court of the country. Until then, , the precarity of interfaith couples will only going to increase in the absence of any safeguards, either from society or the higher judiciary.

Representative table analysing some of the orders:

Table of other similar orders:


(The author is part of the CJP’s Legal Research Team)



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