Roads to justice: Political dialogue on farm laws merits judicial restraint. Not so the maximalism on interfaith marriages

Clipped from: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/blogs/toi-editorials/roads-to-justice-political-dialogue-on-farm-laws-merits-judicial-restraint-not-so-the-maximalism-on-interfaith-marriages/TOI Edit

Times of India’s Edit Page team comprises senior journalists with wide-ranging interests who debate and opine on the news and issues of the day.

Centre’s submission to Supreme Court to defer the legal challenge against its farm laws makes eminent sense in the context of ongoing negotiations between government and farm unions. Commencing hearings would force Centre to file affidavits stating its position, which could become a hindrance in the current fluid situation where talks hint at compromises on both sides. SC rightly welcomed the possibility of dialogue resolving the agitation, which is essentially a political deadlock rather than there being justiciable issues at stake.

However, the court’s initial reluctance to entertain challenges to the near identical interfaith marriage and religious conversion laws enacted by Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh and likely to be replicated by Madhya Pradesh, Assam, Karnataka and Haryana is difficult to understand. So many states piloting legislation undermining the right of consenting adults to marry is alarming. Infantilising them as potential victims of an unfounded religious conversion bogey derisively termed love jihad, which has no substantive basis, not only undermines individual liberty but is also divisive. SC must step in and expeditiously underline the constitutional position on individual liberties.

Apart from constitutional doctrine is the harsh lived reality of immense turmoil the laws have already caused, especially in UP. Ideally, the victims – arrested Muslim men and interfaith couples whose lives were interrupted by police action – will implead themselves into the case. Recall that SC’s verdict outlawing instant triple talaq gained moral force and urgency with a few brave, aggrieved Muslim women coming forward to fight the legal battle. The current situation puts the lower judiciary in a difficult, if not absurd, situation. Lower courts are constrained by the presence of these draconian laws on the statute book to remand those arrested by police to custody. This contradicts their remit to protect individual liberties. SC must repair this rift between law and justice.

This piece appeared as an editorial opinion in the print edition of The Times of India.

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