CASE: Amratansh Nema v. The State Of Madhya Pradesh And Others
CORAM: Chief Justice Mohammad Rafiq and Justice Vijay Kumar Shukla
On 29th January The MP High Court issued a notice to the MP State Government in a plea challenging the anti-religious conversion law (The Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Ordinance, 2020). Chief Justice Mohammad Rafiq and Justice Vijay Kumar Shukla heard a plea challenging the breaches of the newly enacted MP Freedom of Religion Ordinance, 2020, banning religious conversion by misrepresentation, undue influence, etc.
A final year law student, Amratansh Nema, filed a plea alleging that the provisions contained in the ordinance are motivated by religious bigotry, are a severe infringement of constitutional provisions, and are a serious attack on the religious autonomy of individuals of the state. On behalf of all the respondents, Advocate General Purushaindra Kaurav acknowledged the notification and prayed for time to obtain advice and file a counter-affidavit. The Bench then, after eight weeks, posted the matter for further hearing.
The petitioner argued at the outset that the Ordinance was promulgated without a proper consultative procedure, which is a breach of the ‘Due Process of Law’ and represents the misuse of legislative powers. It is alleged that before passing the challenged ordinance, no formal consultation and deliberations were observed by the state government.
The petitioner has argued that Section 10 of the Ordinance, which provides for a mandatory notice period of 60 days, is a clear violation of the Right to Personal Liberty & Autonomy of an individual.
“Exercising a fundamental right can never be subjected to any approval by or intimation to any authority. The said provision visibly contravenes the fundamental right of personal liberty, privacy & choice and encourages the wrongful intervention of the state,” the plea states.
He also pointed out that there is no provision attached to the said provision to do full justice in a situation in which a person or institution is restricted to compliance with the statutory requirements by “sufficient cause”.
The plea states, “There is no provision with regard to the prescribed time limit within which the District Magistrate has to tender the acknowledgment of receipt of declaration or notice under Section 10 (1) & (2) whatever the case may be. This may result in holding back of acknowledgment and unnecessary harassment of individual”.
The Act is also said to affect the right to privacy in that it needs prior permission for religious conversion from the district administration.
The Petitioner put reliance on the Supreme Court judgement in KS Puttaswamy v. Union of India (2017 10 SCC 1), “Privacy includes at its core the preservation of personal intimacies, the sanctity of family life, marriage, procreation, the home, and sexual orientation. Privacy also connotes a right to be left alone. Privacy safeguards individual autonomy and recognises the ability of the individual to control vital aspects of 12 his or her life,”
Similarly, Section 4 of the Ordinance, which enables family members to file a lawsuit against an alleged violent conversion, offers an enormous, unlimited incentive to encourage false complaints to be filed.
Further the Petitioner submitted.
“The stated provision gives an unrestricted opportunity to the family members of a person converted to harass him by filing frivolous complaints alleging the contravention of Section 3 in order to secure their illusionary social reputation at the cost of personal liberty of an individual exercising his right of practicing & professing the religion of his own choice.” Background of the Ordinance
The Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Ordinance 2020 was enacted on 9 January 2021 by the Governor of Madhya Pradesh, Anandiben Patel. The Madhya Pradesh Dharma Swatantrya Adhiniyam, 1968, has been repealed. Every offence committed under the Ordinance has been made cognizable, non-bailable, and triable by the Court of Sessions.