The Bombay High Court on Wednesday directed the Maharashtra government to file a reply to a PIL that challenged the Government Resolution (GR) to set up a special committee named “Intercaste/Interfaith Marriage Family Coordination Committee (state level) to monitor inter-religion marriages in the state.
A division bench of Acting Chief Justice Nitin M Jamdar and Justice Arif S Doctor was hearing a plea by four NGOs — Citizens for Justice and Peace, People’s Union for Civil Liberties, Forum against oppression of women, and Indian Muslims for Secular Democracy — against implementation of the GR.
The court issued notice to the state government asking it to file its response to the plea within two weeks and posted the matter for hearing after three weeks.
As per the GR, a minister of state women and child development department was appointed head of the panel.
The plea filed through advocate Rishika Agarwal contended that the formation of the panel was discriminatory against all women and against particular religious communities.
The PIL further said the panel encouraged division among the people, instead of creating harmony and co-existence amongst diverse religious sects.
It went on to claim, “By using the inherently questionable protection of women as a paradigm and tracing inter-religious relationships only through women, the Maharashtra government is displaying discrimination on the basis of gender as also denying women their own agency and choice.”
The PIL added that the said GR violated rights of women under Articles 14 (right to equality), 15 (prohibition of discrimination on the ground of religion, race, caste, gender, or place of birth), 19 (freedom of speech and expression) and 21 (right to life and personal liberty) of the Constitution.
The NGOs also claimed that the GR failed to put any measures in place to protect the information collected by the panel and there was “no security and accountability provided in terms of data collection, making it exceptionally vulnerable to be misused, apart from being a direct violation of the fundamental right to privacy of two consenting married adults.”