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As Karnataka Mulls 'Love Jihad' Law, HC Says Adult's Right to Marry Person of Choice 'Fundamental'

'Lberty relating to the personal relationships of two individuals cannot be encroached by anybody irrespective of caste or religion.'

New Delhi: At a time when debate is rife over Uttar Pradesh’s new ‘love jihad’ ordinance, the Karnataka high court has said that the right of any adult to marry a person of their choice is a fundamental right guaranteed by the Indian constitution, LiveLaw has reported.

The Adityanath government’s ordinance against forcible or fraudulent religious conversions, which provides for imprisonment of up to 10 years and fine of up to Rs 50,000 under different categories, is understood to be an openly anti-Muslim legislation, and one brought in spite of alarming lack of proof that such conversion exists as a conspiracy in the first place.

‘Love jihad’, which is not a legally recognised term but is widely used by the Sangh parivar’s political outfits, is a coined phrase that attempts to discredit marriages between Muslim men and Hindu women as conspiracy to convert the latter.

Also read: UP Police Reopens ‘Settled Matter’ to Register First Case Under Yogi’s New Anti-Conversion Law

Several BJP-ruled states have also promised similar laws, which strike at the heart of women’s freedom to choose partners. Of these states, significantly, is Karnataka.

On December 1, hearing a habeas corpus petition filed by Wajeed Khan, who had pleaded for the release of his partner Ramya who had been kept confined, a bench of Justices S. Sujata and Sachin Shankar Magadum noted that, “…[L]iberty relating to the personal relationships of two individuals cannot be encroached by anybody irrespective of caste or religion.”

Ramya, a software engineer, has told the court that the decision to marry her partner was her own, and has received opposition from her parents. She submitted that she was staying at the Mahila Dakshatha Samithi lodgings at Vidyaranyapura near Bengaluru. The court has directed the Samithi to release her.

While it is not clear from the report whether she was staying there to escape from her parents and why her immediate release was a matter into which the court needed to look into, the court observed while ordering it, “It is well settled that a right of any major individual to marry the person of his/her choice is a fundamental right enshrined in the Constitution of India…”

The high court’s assertion comes on the heels of the Allahabad high court’s November 11 verdict in which it denounced a previous single-judge bench decision that religious conversions only for the sake of marriage are unacceptable, saying that decision was “bad in law”.

Indian Express had reported recently on how the Karnataka government has long since been making use of Section 366 of the Indian Penal Code to crack down on interfaith and also inter-caste relationships, even those between consenting adults. Forty-one such cases under this section are currently on trial in Bengaluru alone, the report noted. A section which is to be read alongside POCSO provisions, is often used adversely against adults.