A judgement by the Allahabad High Court is refreshing as it comes on the heels of news that the Uttar Pradesh government is proposing a law that brings imprisonment and hefty fines to couples who marry outside the religion. More so, if one of the individuals has converted to the other religion. The law is supposedly against conversion, with a ten year jail sentence, with inter religious marriages included in cases of forced conversion.

Even as the media was whipping up the UP draft, the Allahabad HC has quietly stopped in to maintain that “"Interference in a personal relationship would constitute a serious encroachment into the right to freedom of choice of the two individuals," the court has observed in a case where the parents of the girl Priyanka Kharwar had alleged kidnapping and abduction, after she married Salamat Ansari against their wishes. "The right to live with a person of his/her choice irrespective of religion professed by them, is intrinsic to the right to life and personal liberty," the High Court said in the 14-page order, rejecting arguments by the UP government as well as her parents. The couple married in August last year, and as the court pointed out, they have been living happily and peacefully since. The two judge bench observed, “we do not see

This ruling will go a long way in challenging the proposed law that other BJP ruled states like Madhya Pradesh and Haryana are said to be considering. The focus as per news reports remains on ‘love jihad’ a term that the media has picked up without questioning. Despite the fact that it reflects a narrow mindedness set in bigotry, and is used to feed into an environment of hate and bigotry. More so when it fuelled mobs to patrol areas, and target couples who had moved out of caste and religion barriers often imposed against human relationships. The spotlights of course on marriages between Hindu women and Muslim men.

The threat of violence has created fear in the hinterland with mobs threatening to take the law into their own hands, and stop such marriages. The two judge bench observed, “ we do not see Priyanka Kharwar and Salamat Ansari as Hindu and Muslim, rather as two grown-up individuals who - out of their own free will and choice - are living together peacefully and happily over a year. The Courts and the Constitutional Courts in particular are enjoined to uphold the life and liberty of an individual guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India."

In a media campaign revolving around the proposed bill the observations of the court provide a needed breath of relief. It is highly unfortunate that large sections of the media fed into the propaganda, using the term ‘love jihad’ without demur. And without questioning the serious issues the proposed law raises. In fact the draft itself does not use the term, knowing that it will not get through the courts, and for this purpose does not mention specific religions but insists it is applicable to all religions. However, to ensure that the context remained in the public eye, UP Law Minister Brijesh Pathak told the media that the number of ‘love jihad’ cases had increased dramatically in the state, and this had created disharmony and acrimony within society.

That the focus will remain where intended goes without saying, given the propaganda surrounding the draft and the fact that it has been Muslim-Hindu couples who have been the target of mobs. Along with the Christian community who have been attacked by goons on charges of carrying out conversions. Inter-human relations have come under the scanner of intolerance with motivated mobs being set loose on those seeking to cross the barriers of caste and religion in interpersonal relationships. Dalits too have been assaulted and threatened for marrying into the higher castes.

It is therefore encouraging to see the Allahabad High Court bench return to the drawing board of the Indian Constitution. And drop all charges against Salamat Ansari including the draconian POCSO Act (Protection of children from Sexual offences Act) as the parents had claimed that their daughter was a minor when she was “abducted.” It is imperative, now for the media not to use the terminology that feeds into the industry of hate.