Stating that it could not sit in judgment on Hadiya alias Akhila’s decision to marry a Muslim man, the Supreme Court said on Tuesday that the National Investigation Agency (NIA) could not probe her “marital status” either.
“She may be brainwashed, but what can we do? Whether the man to whom she is married is good or not is for her to decide. Whether it’s an independent choice or not, only she knows. We can’t get into it. If she comes to court and says she married by her choice, that’s the end of it,” said a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra.
Akhila, a Hindu woman from Kerala, embraced Islam, changed her name to Hadiya, and married a Muslim, Shefin Jahan. But their marriage was annulled by the Kerala High Court in May last year.
Hearing a plea filed by Jahan, challenging the high court’s decision to annul their marriage, the Supreme Court bench, which included Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, said: “Marriage has to be separated from any kind of criminal conspiracy, criminal affability or criminal action. Otherwise, we are creating a very bad precedent in law”.
Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal, who moved an application on behalf of Hadiya to implead in the petition filed by Jahan, wanted the court to recall its order allowing the NIA to probe alleged cases of forced religious conversions and marriages in Kerala.
The court turned down his plea, but told the NIA that it could not probe Hadiya’s marital status. “You can investigate all other aspects. You cannot investigate her marital status,” CJI Misra told Additional Solicitor General Maninder Singh, who represented the NIA.
Hadiya had married Jahan during the pendency of a writ petition filed by her father, K M Asokan, in the Kerala High Court. Asokan had alleged that Hadiya was forced to convert to Islam. The high court annulled the marriage, ruling that it was a “sham” and “of no consequence”, and entrusted Hadiya to the custody of her parents.
But in November last year, after interacting with Hadiya, the Supreme Court sent her to her college hostel to complete her internship at the Homeopathy Medical College in Salem in Tamil Nadu, where she was studying before marriage. “I want freedom. I want to remain true to my faith,” Hadiya had told the court, and said she wished to be with her husband.
The Supreme Court’s remarks on Tuesday came in response to Asokan’s plea that it should not look at the marriage in isolation, but as part of a sequence of events. “Marriage is only a device to legitimise her illegal confinement,” said Advocate Madhavi Divan, appearing for Asokan.
Justice Chandrachud said that assuming there was substance in the father’s claims, it still could not be substantiated unless Hadiya backed it. “Who is the person to tell the court? She must say,” he said.
“She is an adult. She appears in court and says she is married. What can the court do,” said CJI Misra.
Meanwhile, Asokan, when contacted, said he would continue his fight. “I will continue my fight to get back my daughter… My battle is not over. I am still confident that I will get back my daughter. Although the court has said the NIA cannot look into her marital status, I can’t sit idle and watch my daughter living with a terrorist,’’ he said.
“I have full confidence in the Supreme Court. I hope the final verdict will help us get back our daughter. Akhila had embraced Islam and married that man (Jahan) out of her ignorance. Once she realises the ground reality, I hope she will come back to our fold,’’ said Asokan.
He said he met his daughter at her college in Salem last week. “She has been brainwashed and hypnotised. Now, she only obeys what they (Muslims) say,’’ he claimed.
Jahan said he was happy about the Supreme Court’s direction to the NIA. “I don’t have any terror links as alleged by certain quarters,’’ he said.