Hadiya Marriage Case: Do We Have the Right To Marry?

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The Hadiya Case (Shafin Jahan Vs Asokan, 2018) is famously known as the Love Jihad Case across the nation and is based on Inter-caste or Inter-religion marriages in India, which has been a controversial topic for most of the time. In the said case, the court assessed the allegation that Hadiya was deceived into marrying her husband Mr. Shafin Jahan and was forcibly converted to Islam. It can be said that the High Court Judgement contravened the principles of the Indian Constitution, however, the Supreme Court intervened and rectified the prevailing errors.

Image Source: India Today

Facts of the Case 

Hadiya Jahan (formerly named as Akhila) converted to Islam during her medical studies in the city of Coimbatore. There she married a man named Shafin Jahan, at the age of 25. Akhila’s father, K.M.Ashokan filed a writ petition in the Kerala High Court when he found out about the marriage. 

In the Kerala High Court, it was contended that Akhila was born as a Hindu, and if she wanted to convert her religion it could be only done if her guardians allowed her to do so. 

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In the year 2017, the Kerala High Court annulled the marriage. The High Court granted custody of the girl to her father ignoring the fact that Hadiya was legally an adult who willingly did not consent to parental custody. Later, Shafin Jahan (Hadiya’s husband) approached the Supreme Court to challenge the annulment. 

The Issues/Questions of law that arose were: 

  • Whether the High Court can annul a marriage under Article 226(1)? 
  • Does the High Court have a say in personal matters under its jurisdiction?
  • Whether Right to one’s faith or to Marry a person of one’s choice is included in Right to Life under Article 21(2)?

Arguments 

The Petitioner and Hadiya claimed that her conversion to Islam and marriage to Shafin Jahan was as per her own will and consent, and that making such choices fall under the scope of Article 21 (Right to Life).

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However, it was argued by the respondent that Hadiya’s marriage being one of the most important decision of her life, can only be taken with the active involvement of her parents. Hadiya’s father also alleged that she had been misled and forced into becoming a Muslim. He also alleged that Akhila’s husband had links with extremist Muslim organizations. 

Held 

The Supreme Court held that the Kerala High Court could not have used Article 226 to annul the marriage of an adult. 

The court observed that- 

 “The expose of facts in the present case depicts that story giving it a colour of a different narrative. It is different since the state that is expected to facilitate the enjoyment of legal rights of a citizen has also supported the cause of a father, an obstinate one, who has endeavored immensely in not allowing his daughter make her own choice in adhering to a faith and further making effort to garrote her desire to live with the man with whom she has entered into wedlock.”

The court also held that non-acceptance of Hadiya’s choice would simply mean creating discomfort to the constitutional right by a Constitutional Court which is meant to be the protector of Fundamental Rights, and hence such a situation cannot remotely be conceived. Moreover, the Constitution guarantees that the ability to take such decisions is a part of liberty and individual autonomy. That the right to marry a person of one’s choice is integral to Article 21. Therefore, the choice of a partner lies within the exclusive domain of an individual, and is a part of the core zone of privacy which is inviolable. 

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The judgement noted 3 core aspects in the case: 

  • It was stated by the Supreme Court that the writ of Habeas Corpus was wrongly used. In this case, the High Court was guided by social considerations, and hence it was wrong and unnecessary for them to go into the aspects of social radicalization, particularly in the writ of habeas corpus. 
  • It was also observed that the High Court wrongly invoked the parens patrie jurisdiction. This jurisdiction empowers the state to intervene against abusive or negligent parent or guardian. The state potentially acts as the parent of such individual. 
  • It was also described that the High court was wrong in letting parental love and concern, override the right of an adult to choose who she wishes to marry. Constitution provides an individual with the right to marry a person according to his/her will.  

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