From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Scope of Article 25
Mains level : Paper 2- Freedom of conscience under Article 25
The order delivered by the Allahabad High Court underlines the most cherished values of our Constitution. The order examines the scope of individual choice and personal liberty on the touchstone of constitutional values.
- The Allahabad High Court declared last month that religious conversions, even when made solely for the purposes of marriage, constituted a valid exercise of a person’s liberties.
- The petitioners had approached the High Court seeking orders to quash a First Information Report (FIR) that was lodged against them.
- The petitioners claimed that they were both adults competent to contract a marriage, and had, in fact, wedded in August 2019, as per Muslim rites and ceremonies, only after the girl had converted to Islam.
- The State argued that petitioner’s partnership had no sanctity in the law, because a conversion with a singular aim of getting married was illegitimate.
- In making this argument, the government relied on a pair of judgments of the Allahabad High Court, in particular on the judgment in Noor Jahan v. State of U.P. (2014).
- There, the High Court had held that a conversion by an individual to Islam was valid only when it was predicated on a “change of heart” and on an “honest conviction” in the tenets of the newly adopted religion.
- Additionally, the High Court had ruled that the burden to prove the validity of a conversion was on the party professing the act.
Major takeaways from the High Court order
- The Allahabad High Courtruled that the freedom to live with a person of one’s choice is intrinsic to the fundamental right to life and personal liberty.
- It order recognises that a person’s freedom is not conditional on the caste, creed or religion that her partner might claim to profess.
- And also that every person had an equal dominion over their own senses of conscience.
- The High Court’s order makes it clear that it is neither the province of the state nor any other individual to interfere with a person’s choice of partner or faith.
- By invoking the Supreme Court’s judgment in Puttaswamy, the High Court held that an individual’s ability to control vital aspects of her life inheres in her right to privacy.
- Term privacy includes the preservation of decisional autonomy, on matters, among other things, of “personal intimacies, the sanctity of family life, marriage, procreation, the home, and sexual orientation”.
- It Court that the judgment in Noor Jahan was incorrectly delivered.
- Marriage, the High Court said, is a matter of choice, and every adult woman has a fundamental right to choose her own partner.
Freedom of conscience under Article 25
- Article 25 of the Constitution expressly protects the choices that individuals make.
- In addition to the right freely to profess, practise and propagate religion, it guarantees to every person the freedom of conscience.
- The idea of protecting one’s freedom of conscience goes beyond mere considerations of religious faith.
When we fail to acknowledge and respect the most intimate and personal choices that people make — choices of faith and belief, choices of partners — we undermine the most basic principles of dignity. Our Constitution’s endurance depends on our ability to respect these decisions, to grant to every person an equal freedom of conscience.