In a 32-page order on an application seeking protection for couples of interfaith marriages from provisions of the Act, a division bench of Justice Sujoy Gupta and Justice Prakash Chandra Gupta cited several judgments of the Supreme Court and various high courts and said, “Considering the aforesaid judgments, in our considered opinion, a strong prima facie case is made out by the petitioners for grant of interim protection in relation to marriage of two adult citizens on their volition and against any coercive action for violation of section 10 of the Act of 2021.”
“Section 10 makes it obligatory for a citizen desiring conversion to give a declaration to the district magistrate, which in our opinion ex facie, unconstitutional in the teeth of aforesaid judgments of this court,” the judges said.
Thus, till further orders, the government shall not prosecute adult citizens if they solemnize marriage on their own volition and shall not take coercive action for violation of Section 10 of Act of 21, the court said.
The bench also said that the state government should file its para-wise return within three weeks. Parties shall complete their pleadings at the earliest.
Liberty is reserved to the parties to file appropriate application seeking out-of-turn final hearing of this matter after completion of pleadings.
In the course of hearing half a dozen petitions challenging the constitutionality of MP Freedom of Religion Act 2021, counsels for the petitioners had moved an application seeking interim relief for interfaith married couples, stating that an adult person has the right to marry according to his or her choice.
However, the 20211 Act provides for 3 to 10 years of jail if a marriage is performed in a covert fashion and also allows a third person to lodge a complaint in this regard. There have been at least two cases in the state, where a case under the Act was registered although the marriage had taken place years ago. They prayed to the court to keep inter-faith marriages out of the purview of the Act. Following arguments from both sides, the judges had reserved their judgment on Tuesday.