Kerala ‘love jihad’: New SC bench asks why marriage was annulled by high court
The court also questioned an earlier order passed by a bench led by former CJI JS Khehar that constituted a NIA probe into the marriage and alleged forced conversion.Updated: Jan 13, 2018 23:05 IST
The Supreme Court questioned on Tuesday the annulment of a Kerala woman’s marriage by the state’s high court in May, after she was allegedly converted to Islam forcibly by an organisation with suspected terrorist links.
Also, a bench headed by chief justice Dipak Misra observed if the case warranted a National Investigation Agency (NIA) probe. The top court ordered the country’s anti-terrorism agency in August to investigate the allegations of terrorist links.
But the main question remained the marriage of 24-year-old homeopathic doctor Hadiya Shefin, born Akhila Ashokan, to Shafin Jahan without her family’s consent and the high court annulling the relationship. The 27-year-old husband challenged the order in the top court.
“The question is can the HC in exercise of Article 226 (special powers) annul a marriage?” the bench asked additional solicitor general Tushar Mehta.
He said the court would have to go deeper to ascertain whether Hadiya’s religious conversion for marriage was an isolated case or if there was a pattern emerging in the state.
Mehta also opposed Jahan’s application asking the top court to recall the NIA inquiry into his marriage.
The counter-terrorism organisation said in a report to the court in August that Hadiya was not an isolated case but part of a growing pattern of converting women from Hinduism to Islam.
Hadiya was allegedly recruited by the Islamic State terrorist group and her husband, who she married last December, was only a stooge. Retired military man Ashokan KM, her father, alleged there was a “well-oiled systematic mechanism” for conversion and Islamic radicalisation.
The woman now lives with her father in Thiruvananthapuram and human rights activists allege her family is torturing her.
Chief Justice Misra wondered how an adult can be forced to stay with her parents.
“She is a 24-year-old lady. You cannot control her,” he told advocate Madhvi Diwan when she tried to intervene on behalf of the father.
“We may appoint a custodian or send her to some home. She should have her own choice.”
The Hadiya lawsuit put the spotlight back on “love jihad”, a controversial term coined by fringe outfits to describe cases of what they believe are forced marriages between Muslim men and Hindu women. They also alleged that such couples often work for terrorist outfits.
A Supreme Court bench headed by then Chief Justice JS Khehar ordered an NIA probe on August 17 into the case, insisting that an adult can also be brainwashed these days.
Former judge RV Raveendran was asked to supervise the probe but he recused later.
Senior advocate Dushyant Dave, the counsel for Jahan, questioned the court’s wisdom in ordering an investigation based on an appeal filed by the husband.
Dave said the order had shaken the “foundation of this multi-religious country”.