New Delhi: The Supreme Court, which issued notice to the two state governments and the Centre today will examine the legal validity of the laws against unlawful conversions in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.

The top court was hearing petitions challenging the Constitutional validity of the Uttarakhand Freedom of Religion Act, 2018 and Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020 which regulate religious conversion and inter-faith marriages.

The three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) SA Bobde also issued a notice to the Centre on the petitions filed by advocate Vishal Thakre and Teesta Setalvad’s NGO Citizens for Justice and Peace. The petitioners have argued that the laws were being misused to harass individuals indulging in interfaith marriages.

The bench replied that it would have been ideal if the petitioners had moved the respective High Courts instead of coming to the Supreme court. The Chief Justice said the challenge to the law is already pending in High Courts and asked the petitioners to go there. “We are not saying you have a bad case, but approach the High Court in first instance, instead of coming here”, observed the bench.

Some of the provisions of these laws are oppressive and horrible in nature and require prior consent of the government to marry which was "absolutely obnoxious", Singh added.

The bench said that it was issuing notice and sought response from both the state governments within four weeks. 

Uttar Pradesh, which has a chunk of Muslim population, has been first off the block with an Ordinance or executive order, which said religious conversions that use falsehood, force or an incentive, or take place solely for the purpose of marriage will be declared a crime. 

The Uttarakhand Act entails two-year jail term for those found guilty of religious conversion through force or allurement, which can be in cash or in kind –employment or material benefit.