PERSONAL CHOICES, THE CONSTITUTION’S ENDURANCE
NEWS Recently, Allahabad High Court in Salamat Ansari And 3 Others vs State Of U.P. And 3 Others 2020, has declared that religious conversion is a part of an individual’s fundamental right to life and liberty, even if it is meant only for marriage.
BACKGROUND The petitioners had approached the High Court seeking orders to quash a First Information Report (FIR) that was lodged against them after the Uttar Pradesh (UP) government passed an ordinance to deal with unlawful religious conversions. The petitioners claimed that they were both adults competent to contract a marriage, and had, in fact, wedded in August 2019, as per Muslim rites and ceremonies, only after the girl had converted to Islam.
ARGUMENTS OF THE STATE IN FAVOUR OF THE FIR
- The State argued that the petitioner’s partnership had no sanctity in the law, because a conversion with a singular aim of getting married was illegitimate.
- In making this argument, the government relied on a pair of judgments of the Allahabad High Court, in particular on the judgment in Noor Jahan v. State of U.P. (2014), which held that a conversion by an individual to Islam was valid only when it was predicated on a “change of heart” and on an “honest conviction” in the tenets of the newly adopted religion.
- Additionally, the High Court had ruled that the burden to prove the validity of a conversion was on the party professing the act.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE HIGH COURT ORDER
- The order delivered by the Allahabad High Court underlines the most cherished values of our Constitution. The order examines the scope of individual choice and personal liberty on the touchstone of constitutional values.
- The Court ruled that the freedom to live with a person of one’s choice is intrinsic to the fundamental right to life and personal liberty.
- It recognizes that a person’s freedom is not conditional on the caste, creed or religion that her partner might claim to profess.
- It also held that every person had an equal dominion over their own senses of conscience.
- The High Court’s order makes it clear that it is neither the province of the state nor any other individual to interfere with a person’s choice of partner or faith.
- By invoking the Supreme Court’s judgment in Puttaswamy, the High Court held that an individual’s ability to control vital aspects of her life inheres in her right to privacy.
- Term privacy includes the preservation of decisional autonomy, on matters, among other things, of “personal intimacies, the sanctity of family life, marriage, procreation, the home, and sexual orientation”.
- It held that Marriage, is a matter of choice, and every adult woman has a fundamental right to choose her own partner.
- Hence the court held the judgment in Noor Jahan’s case as incorrect.
Article 25 of the Constitution guarantees to every person freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion.The idea of protecting one’s freedom of conscience goes beyond mere considerations of religious faith.
Article 21 of the Constitution provides that, no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law. This right has been provided against the State only and is available to every person, citizens and foreigners alike.
When we fail to acknowledge and respect the most intimate and personal choices that people make — choices of faith and belief, choices of partners — we undermine the most basic principles of dignity. Our Constitution’s endurance depends on our ability to respect these decisions, to grant to every person an equal freedom of conscience.