Feb 23, 2022

“Love Jihad” and the right to marry any person of one’s choice.


In the last few weeks, as many as five state governments — Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Karnataka and Assam — have stated their intention to bring a law against alleged “Love Jihad”.


What is “Love Jihad”?


Proponents of the “Love Jihad” theory see it as a large consipracy to get non-Muslim women to convert to Islam through marriage. However, RTI responses, SIT investigations and Lok Sabha questions have shown that there is no legal definition of “Love Jihad”, and there is no data on such cases with the government.


Do the proposed laws define “Love Jihad”, or ban marrying someone from a different religion?


While there is no specific definition of ‘love jihad’, the proposed laws also do not ban marriage to a person of another religion. For example, in the proposed Madhya Pradesh Legislation, the Madhya Pradesh Dharm Swatantrey (freedom of religion) Bill, 2020, there is no specific religion mentioned. Similarly, the Uttar Pradesh Freedom of Religion Bill, 2019 does not explicitly ban marrying someone from a different religion, but prohibits religious conversion done solely for the purpose of marriage, as well as conversion by force, misrepresentation, undue influence, coercion, allurement or by any fraudulent means. Even if this law is passed, there is no restriction created on marrying someone from a different religion, but it does declare that any conversion for the sole purpose of marriage will be declared null and void.


What does the Constitution say about this?


Article 25 of the Indian Constitution guarantees “Freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion”. However, the Supreme Court has confirmed that Article 25 contains the right to communicate about your faith to another person, but does not contain a right to convert another person to your religion. The Supreme Court has also upheld a person’s right to convert to another religion, where such conversion is not forced.


Do I have a right to marry anyone as per my choice?


Yes, except for certain restrictions given in different personal laws, you have the right to marry anyone you choose. The Supreme Court, in a 2017 case has confirmed that ““The right to marry a person of one’s choice is integral to Article 21 (right to life and liberty) of the Constitution”.