The Allahabad High Court has struck down its previous judgement in which it held that religious conversion "just for the purpose of marriage" was unacceptable. The court said that essentially it does not matter whether a conversion is valid or not. The right of two adults to live together cannot be encroached upon by the state or others.
"To disregard the choice of a person who is of the age of majority would not only be antithetic to the freedom of choice of a grown up individual but would also be a threat to the concept of unity in diversity," court said.
The right to choose a partner irrespective of caste, creed or religion is intrinsic to the constitutional right to life and personal liberty, the Allahabad high court held, adding that two previous judgments that objected to religious conversion for the purpose of marriage did not 'lay down good law'.
The decision by the two-judge bench was delivered on November 11 but made public on Monday.
The decision may now pose a legal problem for the Uttar Pradesh government, which is planning a law to regulate interfaith relationships on the basis of the two previous judgments that were both delivered by single-judge benches.
The bench, comprising Justices Pankaj Naqvi and Justice Vivek Agarwal, was hearing a petition by a Muslim man and his wife, who converted from Hinduism to Islam, to quash a police complaint against them by the woman's father.
The petitioners contended they were both majors and competent to choose their life partners.
The court agreed with the petitioners, Salamat Ansari and Priyanka Kharwar a.k.a. Alia, both residents of Kushinagar district.
The judges held that any interference in a personal relationship would constitute a "serious encroachment" on the right to freedom of choice.
"We fail to understand that if the law permits two persons even of the same sex to live together peacefully then neither any individual nor a family nor even state can have objection to relationship of two major individuals who out of their own free will are living together," the verdict said.
The judgment also contradicted two previous judgments -- one delivered in 2014 and the other in 2020 -- that said that religious conversion only for the sake of marriage was not valid under law.
"We hold the previous judgments as not laying good law. None of these judgments dealt with the issue of life and liberty of two matured individuals in choosing a partner or their right to freedom of choice as to with whom they would like to live," the bench said.
Shortly after the high court passed the judgment in the second case in October, chief minister Yogi Adityanath announced that his government was planning a law to regulate 'love jihad', a term used by right-wing Hindu activists to describe relationships between Hindu woman and Muslim men.