The Supreme Court on Thursday allowed Muslim convert Hadiya to live with her husband, Shefin Jahan, setting aside a Kerala High Court order that had annulled their marriage. A three-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra and comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, however, allowed the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to continue its investigation into the case.
Hadiya, formerly called Akhila, left Hinduism to embrace Islam in January 2016. Months later, she married Jahan, a Muslim, triggering allegations of forced conversion. Hadiya’s father Ashokan moved the Kerala High Court which annulled the marriage and sent Hadiya to her parents’ custody in May last year. This order was later stayed by the Supreme Court, which directed Hadiya to return to college, the principal of which was appointed her guardian.
The NIA, meanwhile, has been probing whether Hadiya was forced to convert to Islam. The NIA’s probe, on direction from the Supreme Court, began in August last year.
Here is a timeline of the case:
August 2010: Akhila, the only daughter of K M Ashokan, applied for admission to a private institute, Sivaraj Homeopathy Medical College & Research Institute in Salem, Tamil Nadu. In the institute, she becomes friends with two Muslim sisters. This was the first time Akhila have had Muslim friends or Muslim acquaintances.
2011-12: Akhila soon started listening to Islamic sermons on her phone, downloaded from the Internet. Soon, she had questions about Islam that her friends found difficult to answer. When Akhila was home on leave during Ramzan, she also observed a fast. Later, for Eid-ul-Fitr, she joined her friends, Jaseela and Faseena, at their home in Angadippuram in Malappuram. Akhila also spoke to Jaseela’s father Parayil Aboobacker to clear her doubts about Islam.
September 10, 2015: Akhila makes first attempt to convert to Islam, gets an affidavit attested by an advocate in Kochi, Kerala, saying she was living as a Muslim under no compulsion from anyone.
November 2015: While Akhila kept this conversion bid a secret, relatives say Ponnamma knew of her daughter’s growing leanings towards Islam. Matters came to a head in November 2015, when Akhila’s grandfather died and she refused to join the 40th-day rituals.
January 1, 2016: She urged her parents to embrace Islam arguing that it was a good religion compared to Hinduism. When the parents refused, Akhila left home on January 1, 2016, apparently to return to college in Salem. Instead, she went to her friend’s Malappuram home.
January 2: At her insistence, says Jaseela’s father P Aboobacker, he takes her to an advocate, where she registers an affidavit saying she was embracing Islam of her own will.
January 5: Considering Akhila’s insistence to learn more about Islam, Aboobacker says, he took her to two Islamic institutions in Kozhikode. Both refused to admit Akhila instantly. Akhila and Aboobacker have a fight, after which he refuses to help Akhila further and sends her back to college.
January 6: One of her classmates told all this to her father, and an anxious Asokan started calling her. Akhila, however, refused to return home, and instead again went to Jaseela’s house. She approaches Islamic learning centre Sathya Sarani
January 8: Ashokan files case against Aboobacker
January 11: Aboobacker is arrested and faces charges of fomenting communal enmity. He is released after two days
January 12: Ashokan moves the first habeas corpus in the high court
January 18: Akhila is produced before the court, refuses to go with parents
January 21 to March 21: Akhila alias Hadiya stays at Sathya Sarani to learn about Islam. Zainaba, who once worked with the Sathya Sarani, says the institute had sought her help to ascertain Akhila’s intentions. Akhila attended a course at Sathya Sarani and returned to Zainaba’s house as ‘Hadiya’. “Now Hadiya also started talking about marriage, hoping to find some support system. At her behest, I registered her name on a matrimonial website,” says Zainaba.
August 17: A police officer says the marriage plans were the tipping point for Hadiya’s father. He says Ashokan, being an atheist, was not as concerned about his daughter’s conversion until then. He was, however, worried about a few Kerala Muslims leaving to join the Islamic State along with their wives. Ashokan moves a fresh writ petition in HC, alleging there is a plan to take his daughter to Syria to fight for Islamic State
August 22: In response to her father’s plea, Hadiya was produced before court on August 22. Again she refused to go with her parents and said she wanted to stay with Zainaba. However, the court sent her to a hostel in Kochi.
August 26: Hadiya filed an affidavit in court saying he embraced Islam of her will.
September 29: Hadiya allowed to return to Zainaba.
December 19: Hadiya gets married to Shefin Jahan. Both were introduced to each other through a Muslim matrimonial website
December 21: Two days after their wedding, Hadiya returned to court with Shefin. But the court sent Hadiya to the hostel again and ordered Shefin not to have any contact with her. They weren’t allowed to talk at subsequent hearings either.
May 24, 2017: Kerala High Court annuls the marriage. Ordering a probe, it said, “A girl aged 24 is weak and vulnerable, capable of being exploited in many ways.” It sends Hadiya back to her parents and puts her under police surveillance
August 16: On Jahan’s appeal against HC order, Supreme Court orders NIA probe. ” The NIA’s involvement is necessary to ascertain if this is really an isolated case or is there something more… something wider…,” the bench said. Jahan, was reportedly unhappy with the involvement of NIA, saying that it amounted to distrusting the police. The Supreme Court, however, rejected his claims and said that the “purpose of issuing notice to NIA on the first day itself was for neutral and unbiased assistance”.
November 27: SC frees Hadiya from parents’ custody. During the hearing, which went for over two hours, the woman said she wanted to go with her husband Shefin Jahan. “I want freedom…I want to remain true to my faith,” the 24-year-old said. The apex court allowed Hadiya to resume her House Surgeoncy in Salem-based Homeo Medical College and appoints principal as guardian.
November 28: Dr G Kannan, the principal of Sivaraj Homeopathy College, said he won’t allow anyone to meet Hadiya except her parents.“See, I do not know who her husband is. She is still Akhila for us, and her guardians are her parents who admitted her. In the present scenario, I will not allow anyone except her parents. We will make sure that I or an official are present when her parents visit her,” he said.
November 29: Hadiya says she wanted the freedom to meet her husband, Shefin Jehan.“My demand in the court was freedom, the freedom to meet my husband, but the truth is that I am not free now. I didn’t get freedom,” she told the press outside the Sivaraj Homeopathic Medical College. Hadiya speaks to Husvan Shefin Jahan on phone.
December 9: Hadiya meets her husband at her homoeopathic medical college in Salem under CCTV surveillance. College sources said that Jahan visited Hadiya along with two others, including his lawyer. The college authorities allowed the meeting after both Jahan and Hadiya sought permission.
January 24, 2018: SC says NIA cannot probe and that Hadiya’s choice of a husband cannot be questioned. “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 CJI Dipak Misra.
February 21: Hadiys says she wants to live with Shefin.
February 23: SC questions if Kerala HC can annul marriage of consenting adults. “Can there be a roving inquiry into matrimonial relationship between two consenting adults to find if there was no consent,” Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra asked.
March 8, 2018: The Supreme Court sets aside the Kerala High Court order annulling the marriage and allows Hadiya to live with her husband. Reacting to the Supreme Court order, Ashokan said he was pained to let his daughter go with a “terrorist”. He said he would continue his legal battle and claimed NIA, too, was pursuing probe because it was convinced Shefin was a terrorist.
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