The Allahabad High Court has ruled in favour of an interfaith couple, underlining that the woman is an adult who “wants to live with her husband”, had the “right to live life on her terms (and) is free to move as per her choice without any restriction or hindrance being created by (a) third party”.
The court also quashed an FIR registered against her husband in September in Uttar Pradesh’s Etah district, and directed police to provide security for the couple till they returned home. The FIR was filed after the woman’s father alleged his daughter had been kidnapped and forced into marriage.
“She has a choice to live life on her terms and is free to move as per her choice without any restriction… has expressed that she wants to live with her husband… is free to move as per her own choice without any restriction or hindrance being created by (a) third party,” the court said.
The two-member bench, consisting of Justices Pankaj Naqvi and Vivek Agarwal, spoke to the woman – Shikha – and verified she married Salman of her own free will, as well as confirming she had reached the age of majority; her school certificate listed her date of birth as October 4, 1999.
The court also criticised the Chief Judicial Magistrate of the district for handing custody of Shikha to a Child Welfare Committee that, in turn, gave custody back to her parents “without any application of mind and against her wish.”
“The act(ion) of Chief Judicial Magistrate (Etah) and that of the Child Welfare Committee (Etah) reflects lack of appreciation of legal provisions,” the court said.
Earlier Salman filed a habeas corpus plea – which challenges illegal detention of an individual – stating his wife had been sent to her parents against her wishes.
Last week the High Court, in a case under UP’s controversial anti-conversion law, said a 32-year Muslim man could not yet be arrested. The court also cautioned police against taking any coercive action against him and said it had seen no evidence of “force or coercive process” by the accused.
UP adopted an anti-conversion ordinance late last month amid debate over “love jihad” – the right-wing conspiracy theory that Muslim men seduce Hindu women to have them convert to their religion. However, relationships between Hindu men and Muslim women are generally ignored.
The ordinance was criticised by four former judges, including former Supreme Court judge, Justice Madan B Lokur, who told NDTV it was “unconstitutional”.
The Etah case was filed before the anti-conversion ordinance was passed.
“Love jihad” is a term not recognised by the centre. In February, the Home Ministry told parliament “love jihad is not defined in law” and no such case had been reported by central agencies.
That, however, has not stopped a number of BJP-ruled states, including Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana, from insisting they will push through “anti-love jihad” legislation.