New Delhi: The Supreme Court today observed that the National Investigative Agency cannot take a call on whether the marriage of the 24-year-old Hadiya with Shafin Jahan is legitimate. “If she (Hadiya) has no issues (with the marriage), that’s the end of the issue,” LiveLaw quoted Justice D.Y. Chandrachud as saying.
His remark came during hearings on the controversial case which pits advocates of the autonomy of an adult woman to decide whom she marries against conspiracy theorists who see Hadiya’s marriage as part of a supposed Muslim plot to seduce and convert Hindu women.
“How can we say marriage is not valid when she says she married…she can choose independently. She is 24 years old,” Bar and Bench quoted the bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A. M. Khanwilkar and Chandrachud as saying. “Marriage has to be separate from criminal activity, otherwise we will be creating a bad precedent in law.”
The marriage between Hadiya and Jahan was annulled by the Kerala high court, a move that was criticised widely by women’s rights activists and others for infringing on a woman’s personal rights and saying that she does not have the agency to choose her own partner. The high court had also ordered Hadiya to remain in the custody of her parents. Jahan had appealed this decision in the Supreme Court.
Also read: Hadiya’s Encounter With the Courts Reveals the Continued Stranglehold of Brahmanical Order
The lawyer representing Hadiya’s father, who had insisted from the beginning that the marriage is a case of ‘love jihad‘ even though Hadiya converted to Islam before she met Jahan, said that the circumstances leading to the marriage needed to be investigated. To this, the court said that the couple’s marital status was not a matter for investigation. The NIA can continue with its probe but it cannot investigate into the marital status of the man and the woman, PTI quoted the court as saying.
The NIA told the court that it has made “substantial progress” in its probe into ‘love jihad’ in Kerala, PTI reported.
The Supreme Court also said today that it is not within the courts’ jurisdiction to decide whether or not a grown woman should live with her parents. “When the girl says I don’t want to go with father, how can the court compel her? She is an adult, she appeared and made a statement,” LiveLaw quoted the bench as saying.
Also read: SC Should Defend Women’s Privacy, Autonomy, Not Perpetuate ‘Love Jihad’ Myth
The court also accepted lawyer Kapil Sibal’s request to make Hadiya a party to the proceedings, and said that the matter will next be heard on Fenruary 22.
In November 2017, the Supreme Court had ‘allowed’ Hadiya to go back to college and finish her course in homeopathic studies. The bench directed the college and the university to re-admit Hadiya and grant her hostel facilities.
During the course of the hearing then, Hadiya had said that she wanted to live with her husband and that she had married Jahan of her own free will. She was produced in the court after the bench had ordered her father to bring her, so that they could ascertain her mental health.