New Delhi: Not for the first time, the Allahabad high court on Wednesday came to the aid of an interfaith couple in Uttar Pradesh and said that no one is “entitled to interfere in their peaceful life.”
Hearing the plea of a Muslim man and a formerly Hindu woman who had converted to Islam willingly, the bench of Justice Saral Srivastava said, according to LiveLaw:
“The Court has repeatedly held that where the two individuals having attained the age of majority, are living together, nobody is entitled to interfere in their peaceful life.”
The couple claimed to be adults and furnished documents reflecting that they were born in 1998 and 1997.
Justice Srivastava ordered the Bijnor Superintendent of Police to provide adequate protection to the couple, if necessary, and fixed the matter for hearing on February 8, LiveLaw has reported. The court also directed the husband to deposit a sum of Rs 3 lakh in favour of the wife, although it is not clear exactly why.
According to the report, the court cited two Supreme Court judgments, one from 2006 following a petition of a woman’s family’s opposition to her inter-caste marriage, and another from 2011 which dealt with the murder of a woman by her family for a relationship.
The bench quoted from the apex court’s judgment in the 2006 case, authored by Justice Markandey Katju:
“This is a free and democratic country, and once a person becomes a major he or she can marry whosoever he/she likes. If the parents of the boy or girl do not approve of such inter-caste or inter-religious marriage the maximum they can do is that they can cut off social relations with the son or the daughter, but they cannot give threats or commit or instigate acts of violence and cannot harass the person who undergoes such intercaste or inter-religious marriage.”
The court’s observation is significant as Uttar Pradesh recently brought an ordinance which ostensibly seeks to curb forcible religious conversions. However, in reality, the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020, attempts to give legal credence to the Sangh Parivar’s coinage of ‘love jihad’ – an imaginary conspiracy by Muslims to force unsuspecting Hindu women into conversions through marriage.
There have been a spate of FIRs and dubious arrests since the ordinance was brought. In a particularly harrowing incident in Uttar Pradesh’s Moradabad district a 22-year-old Hindu woman miscarried as in the aftermath of her forced stay at a women’s shelter. The woman’s Muslim husband was arrested along with his brother, even though the concerned woman repeatedly said she was an adult and had married of her own volition.
In the month of November, 2020, the Allahabad high court had granted protection to 125 interfaith couples. In the same month, the court 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”.
That judgment, the division bench of the Allahabad high court said on November 11, does not take into account the right to life and personal liberty of mature adults. The bench was referring to the 2014 decision in Noor Jahan Begum @ Anjali Mishra and Another vs. State of U.P. and Others, which was followed in Priyanshi @ Km. Shamren and others Vs. State of U.P. and Another in September 2020.
In December, the Allahabad high court reunited a 21-year-old Hindu woman, Shikha, with her Muslim husband, Salman. The bench observed that an adult woman “has a choice to live her life on her own terms” and “she is free to move as per her own choice without any restriction or hinderance being created by third party”.
On December 7, according to LiveLaw, the chief judicial magistrate of Etah had placed Shikha in the custody of the Child Welfare Committee, who had said she must return to her parent’s house and live in their custody. This, the Allahabad high court said, was done “without any application of mind and against her [Shikha’s] wish”.
On January 15, the court will hear a PIL challenging the constitutional validity of Uttar Pradesh’s new ordinance.