Interfaith couple in MP wins 27-year battle to prove consent to marriage

Updated on Nov 04, 2022 12:31 AM IST

Nayab Khan of Madhya Pradesh’s Panni district heaved a sigh of relief last week after his 27-year court battle ended with his acquittal in a case where he was accused of abducting his wife, a Hindu, and pressuring her for marriage.

Nayab Khan in Madhya Pradesh heaved a sigh of relief last week after his court battle ended with his acquittal in a case where he was accused of abducting his wife, a Hindu, and pressuring her for marriage.
Nayab Khan in Madhya Pradesh heaved a sigh of relief last week after his court battle ended with his acquittal in a case where he was accused of abducting his wife, a Hindu, and pressuring her for marriage.
By, Bhopal

Nayab Khan of Madhya Pradesh’s Panni district heaved a sigh of relief last week after his 27-year court battle ended with his acquittal in a case where he was accused of abducting his wife, a Hindu, and pressuring her for marriage.

The 50-year-old was arrested in July 1995 and sentenced to imprisonment for two years by district and session court in 1998, even as his wife, Medha Gautam, submitted that she eloped with him and married him of her free will. On October 27 this year, he was acquitted by the Jabalpur bench of Madhya Pradesh high court.

“Many people told me it was just a two-year prison term and I should accept it but I knew that I was not wrong and had to fight,” Khan said.

Khan and Gautam were 23 and 18 years, respectively, when they ran away from Panni district to Uttar Pradesh’s Kanpur in June 1995. They got married in July 1995 and returned to Panna later that month.

Following her return, Gautam’s father filed a police complaint, alleging she had gone to attend nature’s call and did not return, on the day she went missing from home, Khan’s lawyer Amanullah Usmani said. The father alleged that his daughter was a minor then and Khan forced her to marry her.

Following an investigation into the complaint, Panna police said Khan had met Gautam in her courtyard, abducted her and took her to Kanpur when he pressurised her to marry him. The duo stayed in Kanpur for a month, after which they “rescued her from Khan’s house”, the police said in its charge sheet.

In the court, Gautam’s father produced a school marksheet to claim his daughter was 16 years at the time of the incident to falsely implicate Khan, Usmani said.

Khan was convicted in the case in August 1998 and sentenced to two years of imprisonment under section 363 (punishment for kidnapping) under Indian Penal Code. He was released on bail a month later.

“Khan was sent to jail and released on bail. The couple began a happy life but to get rid of the accusation against him, they decided to move the high court. Khan went through a series of hearings before he won the case,” Usmani said.

In the high court, Gautam specified that she was not abducted by Khan and taken forcibly to Kanpur, the lawyer said.

“Gautam said she was studying in class 10 and knew Khan. She said that on the night of the incident, Khan met her and asked her to go with him and marry him. They went to Kanpur and got married. She categorically stated that she had gone with Khan on her own free will, without any kind of inducement,” Usmani said.

Dr GP Singh from Panna district hospital had submitted a report in which he opined that the age of the woman was between 16 to 18 at the time of the incident.

The court, however, gave the accused the benefit of doubt, and acquitted Khan in the case, Usmani said.

“In view of the preceding analysis, this Court comes to the conclusion that no offence under Section 363 of the Indian Penal Code is made out against the appellant. Accordingly, the appeal is allowed. The impugned judgment of conviction and order of sentence dated on August 26, 1998 are hereby set aside,” the high court order, seen by HT, said.

“After fighting for 27 years, the single bench of justice Anjuli Palo acquitted him,” Usmani said.

After his acquittal, Khan said: “My wife and four children supported me. The case was highlighted too much because we belong to different religions and the police filed a charge sheet under pressure. I just wanted to prove the truth.”

“We fought very hard for this false case. I used to feel bad for him because he wanted to go for the Haj but he was not getting his passport. I am happy that we won a long battle and proved that the decision of marriage was taken by us together,” Gautam said.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    She is a senior reporter based at Bhopal. She covers higher education, social issues, youth affairs, woman and child development related issues, sports and business & industries.

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