New Delhi: In the latest instance of the courts intervening to stop the Uttar Pradesh government and police’s efforts to interfere in interfaith marriages, the Allahabad high court has 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”.
On December 18, a bench of Justices Pankaj Naqvi and Vivek Agarwal said that Shikha has said she wishes to live with her husband, 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”.
Shikha’s school documents show that her date of birth is October 4, 1999, the court noted, making her an adult. “The act of C.J.M., Etah and that of the C.W.C., Etah reflects lack of appreciation of legal provisions,” the Allahabad high court said.
On September 7, an FIR had been registered against Salman for ‘kidnapping’ Shikha. The high court quashed this FIR, and also directed the police to provide security to the couple as they went back home, Indian Express reported.
Harassment of interfaith couples, and undermining a woman’s wishes to live with her husband even though she is an adult, are not new in India. Incidents of this sort continue to occur despite the court’s making it clear that there is no legal basis for them.
Just recently, the Calcutta high court too reiterated that an adult woman can marry whoever she wants, and also convert religions if she so desires. “If an adult marries as per her choice and decides to convert and not return to her paternal house, there can be no interference in the matter,” the high court observed.
In Uttar Pradesh particularly, the harassment of interfaith couples has been on the rise recently after the government passed a controversial new ‘anti-conversion’ ordinance. A number of consensual adult couples have suffered because of this – including dozens of arrests and a woman having a miscarriage after being forced to move into a shelter home.