All India Lawyers group condemns BJP state governments’ statements on so-called ‘Love Jihad’  

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Instead of pursuing communal agenda, BJP govt to  enact law against honour killing as directed by Supreme Court

By Abdul Bari Masoud

New Delhi:  As the debate on so-called ‘Love Jihad’ is raging in the country,   prominent practicing lawyers’ body on Friday condemned the announcements of various BJP-ruled states to pass a law against ‘love jihad’.  The All India Lawyers’ Association for Justice said it is a pejorative and communal term for inter-religious marriages, which has no basis in fact or law. Association urged the government, instead of pursuing a communal agenda, to take immediate steps to enact a law that would specifically cover the field of so-called ‘honour’ crimes as directed by the Supreme Court.

It noted that BJP’s statements unlawfully terming the concept of inter-religious marriages as ‘love jihad’ go against the very essence of Articles 14, 21 and 25 of the Indian Constitution, which recognize the fundamental right of an individual to equality, to live with dignity and to freely profess, practice and propagate religion, which cumulates in every individual’s right to love and marry a person of one’s choice.

It further said these statements are a direct attack on the Constitution and the individual freedoms of the people in this country.

“ Justice DY Chandrachud in his concurring judgment in Shafin Jahan Vs. Ashokan K.M. & Ors. [(2018)16 SCC 368], popularly known as the ‘Hadiya judgment’ held that the right to marry a person of one’s choice is integral to Article 21 of the Constitution and that matters of belief and faith, including whether to believe are at the core constitutional liberty and that the Constitution exists for believers as well as for agnostics and that it protects the ability of each individual to pursue a way of life or faith to which she or he seeks to adhere,” it quoted.

The judgment further held that, “Matters of dress and of food, of ideas and ideologies, of love and partnership are within the central aspects of identity… Society has no role to play in determining our choice of partners.”

The Kerala High Court also delivered its judgment on the same lines.

A Division Bench judgment the Kerala High Court in Anees Hameed Vs. State of Kerala [ILR 2017(4) Kerala 389], observed: “We are appalled to notice the recent trend in the state to sensationalise every case of inter-religious marriage as either love jihad or ghar wapsi. Disturbing news is coming from several parts of the country that young men and women who undergo inter-caste marriages are threatened with violence or violence is actually committed on them. In our opinion, such acts of violence or threats or harassment are wholly illegal and those who commit them must be severely punished. This is a free and democratic country and once a person becomes a major, he or she can marry whosoever he or she likes.”

The lawyers body also recalled the statement of the Minister of State Home Affairs, G. Kishan Reddy in the parliament on the question of ‘Love Jihad’.  In fact, on 04.02.2020

In  response to queries on “love jihad” cases on February 4,2020,  Reddy responded stated that : “(a) to (c): Article 25 of the Constitution provides for the freedom to profess, practice and propagate religion subject to public order, morality and health”.

Various courts have upheld this view including the Kerala High Court. The term ‘Love Jihad’ is not defined under the extant laws. No such case of ‘Love Jihad’ has been reported by any of the central agencies. However, two cases from Kerala involving interfaith marriages have been investigated by the National Investigation Agency (NIA).

The lawyers’ body said it demands that instead of creating issues, the BJP governments should focus on addressing the rampant murders of couples, solely because they belong to different castes and communities, called “honour killings”.

In fact there is complete failure of the Governments to tackle the same. In Lata Singh v. State of U.P. [(2006) 5 SCC 475], the Supreme Court directed the administration and police authorities throughout the country to ensure that “if any boy or girl who is a major undergoes inter-caste or inter-religious marriage with a woman or man who is a major, the couple are not harassed by any one nor subjected to threats or acts of violence, and anyone who gives such threats or harasses or commits acts of violence either himself or at his instigation, is taken to task by instituting criminal proceedings by the police against such persons and further stern action is taken against such persons as provided by law.”

The Court further notes on dangers of `honour’ killings, and notes that there is nothing honourable in such killings, and in fact they are nothing but barbaric and shameful acts of murder committed by brutal, feudal minded persons who deserve harsh punishment.

In fact,  in Shakti Vahini
vs. Union of India (UOI) and Ors. [AIR 2018 SC 1601], the Supreme Court prescribed a slew of recommendations to ensure the protection of couples who enter into inter-caste or interreligious marriages. It prescribed that a law on the lines of abolition of ‘sati’ and ‘dowry’ be implemented to fight the social menace of ‘honour killings’. However, till date, the directions and recommendation of the court have been ignored and statements are made time and again to threaten the freedom of individuals in their choice of life and practicing religion.

It may be noted that Article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights underscores the fundamental importance of marriage as an incident of human liberty and states that the men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family and that they are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution, and that such family is entitled to protection by society and the State.

It pointed out that the proposed law is also problematic because the structures of caste and religion are kept in place by the structure of arranged marriage.

Instead of implementing the decisions of the Apex Court in ensuring the protection of the free, secular, fraternalistic and democratic principles of the Constitution based on which the country thrives, the politicians are propagating inequality, hatred and are snatching away the rights of the people of this country, the body warned.

It said the proposed move is in furtherance of the communally divisive ideology of the Sangh Parivar.

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