Hadiya’s father cannot be allowed to curtail the fundamental rights of his daughter in the name of protecting her interests: SC [Full Report]

Supreme Court: Terming the Hadiya case as the perfect example of “patriarchal autocracy and possibly self ­obsession with the feeling that a female is a chattel”, the 3-judge bench of Dipak Misra, CJ and AM Khanwilkar and Dr. DY Chandrachud, JJ set aside the Kerala High Court verdict and held that the High Court has completely erred by taking upon itself the burden of annulling the marriage between two consenting adults, namely, Hadiya and Shafin Jahan.

Below are the important facts of the case:

  • 24-year-old Akhila alias Hadiya, had converted to Islam after staying with 2 of her friends, Jaseena and Faseena, while completing her Bachelor of Homeopathic Medicine and Surgery (BHMS) degree.
  • Hadiya refused to return to her father Asokan’s place after he filed a writ of habeas corpus before Kerala High Court in January, 2016 on the apprehension that his daughter was likely to be transported out of the country.
  • Hadiya continued to stay at the house of her aforementioned friends. She expressed her desire to complete her House   Surgeoncy   at  the  Shivaraj Homeopathic   Medical   College, Salem which has a hostel for women   where   she   was   willing   to   reside   for   the   purpose   of completing her House Surgeoncy.
  • On 21.12.2016, Hadiya appeared before the High Court and a statement was made that she had entered into marriage with Shafin Jahan. High Court noted that the marriage was totally unexpected.
  • High Court in the impugned judgment held that a girl aged 24 years is weak and vulnerable and capable   of   being   exploited   in   many ways and thereafter, the Court, exercising the parens patriae jurisdiction, observed that it was concerned with the welfare of the girl of her age and hence, the custody of Akhila alias Hadiya should be given to her parents.

The Kerala High Court allowed her to complete her studies but held:

“Her marriage being the most important decision in her life, can also be taken only with the active involvement of her parents. The marriage which is alleged to have been performed is a sham and is of no consequence in the eye of law.”

CJI, writing for himself and Khanwilkar, J, held that non­-acceptance of Hadiya’s choice would simply mean creating discomfort to the constitutional right by a Constitutional Court which is meant to be the protector of fundamental rights. Such a situation cannot remotely be conceived.

He wrote:

“The exposé of facts in the present case depicts that story giving it a colour of different narrative. It is different since the State that is expected to facilitate the enjoyment of legal rights of a citizen has also supported the cause of a father, an obstinate one, who has endeavoured immensely in not allowing his daughter to make her own choice in adhering to a faith and further making Everestine effort to garrotte her desire to live with the man with whom she has entered into wedlock.”

Chandrachud, J also came down heavily upon the Kerala High Court for following an erroneous approach and writing down a separate but concurring judgment, said:

“The schism between Hadiya and her father may be unfortunate. But it was no part of the jurisdiction of the High Court to decide what it considered to be a ‘just’ way of life or ‘correct’ course of living for Hadiya. She has absolute autonomy over her person. Hadiya appeared before the High Court and stated that she was not under illegal confinement. There was no warrant for the High Court to proceed further in the exercise of its jurisdiction under Article 226.”

The Court, however, permitted the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to continue the investigation in respect of any matter of criminality. However, the validity of the marriage between Shafin Jahan and Hadiya shall not form the subject matter of the investigation. The Court made it clear that “nothing contained in the interim order of this Court will be construed as empowering the investigating agency to interfere in the lives which the young couple seeks to lead as law abiding citizens.”

The Court had passed the operative order in the present matter on 08.03.2018.

[Shafin Jahan v. Asokan K.M.,  2018 SCC OnLine SC 343, decided on 09.04.2018]

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