High Court Cannot Nullify Marriage Between Two Consenting Adults: Supreme Court

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Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that High Court cannot nullify marriage between two consenting adults in the controversial Hadiya case. By pronouncing this decision the court upheld the fundamental rights given to people of India by Indian constitution.

Facts

A 24-year-old girl Akhila pursuing Bachelor of Homeopathic medicine and surgery from a college in Salem went missing from her friend’s house on 6th January 2017. It was discovered that Akhila attended her college on 6th January wearing Hijab following which her parents lodged a police complain. Akhila’s father filed a writ of Habeas Corpus at Kerala High Court. Akhila was brought before the court on 19th January where she said that she had converted to Islam by her own free will and taken the name Hadiya. She further stated that she converted because she was impressed by her friend’s timely prayers and good character and added that she had been following Islam for three years without announcing the change. From 7th January she had been staying with Sainaba a social worker who worked with an educational and conversion center known as Sathya Sarani in Manjeri, Malappuram. Hearing this court rejected the writ of Habeas Corpus filed by Akhila’s father saying she was staying at the institution of her own free will and there was no illegal confinement.

Akhila’s father filed a second petition on 17 August 2016 alleging that her daughter was being taken to another country for marriage with a Muslim man. Court immediately passed an interim order keeping Akhila under surveillance to ensure she stays in the country. On the day of hearing, Akhila tells the court that she did not want to return to her parent’s house. Akhila’s father revealed his concern for her safety following which court sent her to a hostel in Ernakulam. In September Akhila tells the court that she was being made to stay at the hostel and she should be allowed to stay in place of her choosing. She does not possess a passport and cannot travel to any foreign country.

On 21st December Akhila walks in the court with a stranger who turns out to be her husband. They met through a matrimonial website and married on 19th December. Judges of Kerala High Court were livid with rage and not satisfied with the manner in which marriage was performed and sent Akhila to a ladies hostel with no access to mobile phone. On 24 May Kerala High Court called her wedding a sham and nullified it. Moreover, Court said that wedding could be a conspiracy to take her out of the country.

Akhila’s husband appealed to Supreme Court against the order of Kerala High Court. Supreme Court herd the matter on two issues

Issues of the Case

  1. Can High Court sou motto nullify a marriage in a habeas corpus petition?
  2. Can a third party approach court in a case of marriage between two consenting adults?

Decision

Apex Court noted the observation of High Court that there were radical organizations in the country trying to brainwash young Indian girls in. Learned council Kapil Sibal for petitioners maintained that bride and groom had met through a matrimonial website, marriage was valid and there was no element of undue influence or forced consent. Shyam Divan on other side argued that High Court under article 226 has the inherent jurisdiction to annul a marriage where the solemnization of marriage is carried out in the background of poverty or illiteracy of one party.

After listening to both the sides Apex Court held

“ the High Court should not have annulled the marriage between Shafin Jahan and Hadiya alias Akhila Asokan, in a Habeas Corpus petition under Article 226 of the Constitution of India. We say so because in the present appeal, by special leave, we had directed the personal presence of Hadiya alias Akhila Ashokan she appeared before this Court on 27th November 2017, and admitted her marriage with appellant No.1.”

Learning of the Case

From this case we learn 2 things first, that court cannot annul a marriage between two consenting adults in a habeas corpus petition. Second, every Indian has the right to choose his or her partner in a marriage.

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