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Justice for Hadiya

By prioritising shadowy fears of terror and ‘love jihad’ over an individual’s rights, court goes against its own grain.

By: Editorial | Published: August 19, 2017 12:50 am
Hadiya, Shafi Jehan and Hadiya marriage, Akhila Hadia Case, National Investigation Agency (NIA) , Kerala High Court , conversions of Hindu women to Islam, Supreme Court, Love jihaad, Indian Express Editorials, Indian Express news That this order comes in a case where the Kerala High Court has questioned a 24-year-old adult woman’s autonomy and freedom to choose the course of her life is doubly disquieting.

The Supreme Court has ordered an investigation by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) into a possible “conspiracy” which involves Hindu women in Kerala being converted to Islam. That an anti-terrorism investigative agency has been tasked with ascertaining the veracity of religious conversions is problematic enough. That this order comes in a case where the Kerala High Court has questioned a 24-year-old adult woman’s autonomy and freedom to choose the course of her life is doubly disquieting.

In May this year, the Kerala High Court annulled the marriage between Shafi Jehan and Hadiya, who was known as Akhila before she chose to convert to Islam. In doing so, it argued that a woman’s “marriage being the most important decision in her life, [it] can also be taken only with the active involvement of her parents” — a judgement that enforces the widespread patriarchal understanding of women being the forever wards and property of their parents.

Hadiya’s father had argued that his daughter had come under the influence of radical Islamists, while she has told the court that she converted to Islam of her own volition. More disturbingly, while declaring the marriage as a “sham”, the high court suggested that Jehan had links with the Islamic State extremists on the basis of the WhatsApp groups he had been a part of — a police investigation had not found any criminal element in Hadiya’s conversion or marriage.

When Jehan moved the SC, he was asking it to adjudicate on the wisdom of the HC judgment. The court, instead, chose to bring in the NIA to probe whether there is a larger, dubious pattern in conversions of Hindu women to Islam. Why was it moved to do so remains unclear, and invites suspicions of judicial overreach. And what of Hadiya? Has she had a chance to argue her case? Since the May order of the high court, she has been under house arrest in her parents’ home, forbidden to meet her husband or anyone else. Neither has the SC intervened to free her of this illegal incarceration, nor has it bothered to listened to her account of the case.

There have been countless cases in this country’s history when the courts have stood up for the freedom of the individual against the diktat of the community, family or state. By choosing to prioritise shadowy fears of “love jihad” over a flesh-and-blood individual’s rights, the court has gone against its own grain. It runs the risk of feeding into a communal narrative, which is growing in strength.

It has set a dangerous precedent that can surely be used to curb the agency and autonomy of Indian women. The Kerala HC, in its order, had said that “we are not satisfied that it is safe to let Akhila [be] free to decide what she wants in her life.” The Supreme Court must reinstate the freedom of this Indian citizen.

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    Ramesh Kumar
    Aug 24, 2017 at 7:17 am
    This High Court judgement was not based on a suspicion of 'Love Jihad'. Any judgement on this case should take into account the context of this rather complex case. This is not a case of a Hindu girl and a Muslim boy falling in love and deciding to get married. The High Court judgement has specifically stated that if such was the case, the Court would be in support of the rights of the couple to get married and live an independent life of their choice even if the parents object on religious or community grounds. If we go into the details of the case - as has been recounted in detail in the 100 page judgement that is available in the internet -it becomes clear that this is not an ordinary case of two people from different communities falling in love and orthodox parents objecting to it and threatening violence. If we read the jugement, the High Court's stance would appear to be fully justified.
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      rajen
      Aug 21, 2017 at 1:58 pm
      Parental control over marital relations is very much valid, and has a scientific basis too. An offspring, male or female, comes in this world taking 23 chromosomes from father and 23 from mother. (These chromosomes altogether contain about 50K genes.) Also that a human kid can not survive to adulthood without nurture and care of his/her parents. In turn when one marrys, one carry over those chromosomes and thereby the genes to ones offsprings after mixing with the genes of his/her spouse. Given the situation, adult or not, consent of parents is a MUST who one should marry. After all as a child one is custodian of ones parental genes. Parents should have a say where their genes should go in the third generation, who should their genes should mix and who should they not mix with. This is the reason that Hindu marriage forbids even the conjugal relations between 7 generations of blood relations. Muslim marriage creates thorough inbreeding that is deleterious in the long run.
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        rajen
        Aug 21, 2017 at 1:48 pm
        Parental control over marital relations is very valid, and has a scientific basis. An offspring, male or female, comes in this world taking 23 chromosomes from father and 23 from mother. Also that they can not survive to adulthood without care of the parents. In turn when one marrys, one carry over those chromosomes and thereby the genes to their offsprings after mixing with the genes of his/her spouse. Given the situation adult or not, consent of parents is a MUST who one should marry. After all a child is custodian of ones parental genes. Parents should have a say where their genes should in the third generation. This is the reason that Hindu marriage forbids conjugal relations between 7 generations of blood relations.
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          rajen
          Aug 21, 2017 at 1:47 pm
          Parental control over marital relations is very valid, and has a scientific basis. An offspring, male or female, comes in this world taking 23 chromosomes from father and 23 from mother. Also that they can not survive to adulthood without care of the parents. In turn when one marrys, one carry over those chromosomes and thereby the genes to their offsprings after mixing with the genes of his/her spouse. Given the situation adult or not, consent of parents is a MUST who one should marry. After all a child is custodian of ones parental genes. Parents should have a say where their genes should in the third generation. This is the reason that Hindu marriage forbids conjugal relations between 7 generations of blood relations.
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            Usman
            Aug 20, 2017 at 12:36 am
            If NIA have no work to do, ask them to investigate all religious conversation cases in India. Or start a marriage agency for conducting legal marriages.
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