Deposing before the Supreme Court for the first time, Hadiya, a Kerala-based Hindu girl Akhila who converted to Islam and later married a Muslim man, Shafin Jahan, told the bench on Monday that she wanted her freedom back and wanted to remain true to her faith.
During the hearing, which went for over two hours, the woman said she wanted to go with her husband Shafin Jahan. “I want freedom…I want to remain true to my faith,” the 24-year-old said.
The SC bench, headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, then asked Hadiya if she wanted to continue her studies on the state’s expense. To this, Hadiya said she wanted to continue her studies but not on the state’s expense. “I want to (study) but not on state’s expense. My husband can take care of me,” she told the bench.
The apex court allowed Hadiya to resume her House Surgeoncy in Salem-based Homeo Medical College and asked the Kerala government to make arrangements for her travel at earliest. The SC appointed the dean of the college as Hadiya’s guardian. Hadiya has been staying at her parental home for several weeks. The bench, also comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, directed the college to re-admit Hadiya and grant her hostel facilities.
The conversion case, which has grabbed national headlines, saw a heated debate between the counsel of Shafin Jahan and that of Hadiya’s father KM Ashokan. The National Investigation Agency (NIA) and Ashokan have contended that Hadiya had been indoctrinated by radical groups and her consent was not free in the marriage. However, in its status report to the Supreme Court on Thursday, the NIA is learnt to have attached the statement of Hadiya, in which she has reportedly denied any pressure to convert to Islam or marry Jahan.
Appearing for Hadiya’s husband, senior lawyer Kapil Sibal told the SC that he was saddened by the fact that instead of asking Hadiya on what she wanted, people were talking about the “venom” perpetrated by news channels. “Instead of asking Hadiya on what she wants, people are talking about the venom filled in news channels and media,” he said.
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Countering Sibal, the counsel for Hadiya’s father said the probe report submitted by the NIA should be looked into before hearing the version of Hadiya. “There’s an operational apparatus existing for conversion,” the counsel said.
Sibal further told the CJI that the court should listen to Hadiya and not the NIA. “When Hadiya is here, the court should listen to her, not the NIA. She is entitled to take decisions of her life,” the senior lawyer contended.
The top court fixed the hearing on Jahan’s plea against Kerala HC order annulling his marriage with Hadiya to the third week of January next year. Outside the court, Jahan said his stand had been vindicated. “The court’s ruling proves that my stand has been vindicated,” ANI quoted Hadiya’s husband as saying.
In August, the Supreme Court had directed the NIA to probe the case after Jahan challenged the Kerala High Court’s decision to annul their marriage and give Hadiya’s custody to her father. In its earlier report to the court, the NIA had claimed there was a “well-oiled machinery working in Kerala” involved in indoctrination and radicalisation of women, and 89 such cases had been reported. It claimed that the court could invoke parental authority even if Hadiya was an adult, as her case suggested that she was radicalised.
Hadiya’s father, K M Ashokan, had also alleged that she had been indoctrinated by radical groups. The SC had said it could consider the contention of the NIA and Ashokan only after it had talked to her.
(With inputs from agencies)