Politicians can’t stomp on constitutional rights - Hindustan Times

Politicians can’t stomp on constitutional rights

Aug 05, 2023 11:07 PM IST

Gujarat CM suggests making parental consent mandatory in love marriages, potentially breaching constitutional guarantees.

The one thing I expect of our politicians — and even more so of the heads of government — is a certain modicum of knowledge. They need to know the rights we’re guaranteed under our Constitution and, yes, they must have the intelligence to realise when they’re trespassing on them. Now, in the light of this little homily, consider the tale I’m about to tell.

Doesn’t the CM know that unless he can change the Constitution, he cannot make parental consent mandatory in love marriages?(Twitter Photo) PREMIUM
Doesn’t the CM know that unless he can change the Constitution, he cannot make parental consent mandatory in love marriages?(Twitter Photo)

Recently, the Indian Express newspaper reported that the chief minister (CM) of Gujarat has said his government will be “looking into the possibility of making parental consent mandatory in love marriages.” Of course, he added, “...within the ambit of the Constitution”. But surely that proviso makes his task impossible, for it breaches the guarantees the Constitution has given us?

In the eyes of that precious document, at 18, we’re adults. Thereafter a woman is free to decide who she wants to marry, when she wants to marry and, frankly, how often she wants to do so, provided she can get a proper divorce. Bizarrely the law doesn’t confer this right on men till the age of 21. They can vote at 18 but not marry till 21. But let’s leave that anomaly for another day.

So doesn’t the CM know that unless he can change the Constitution, he cannot make parental consent mandatory in love marriages?

To even claim he can suggests he either doesn’t know our Constitution or thinks he has the power to unilaterally change it. Or perhaps he has no intention of doing what he says?

Nonetheless, this is what he said: “Rushikeshbhai Patel (the health minister) was telling me that we should take a relook at the cases of elopement of girls and that a study should be carried out of all… so that something can be done to ensure that parental consent is there in love marriages… if the Constitution does not become a hindrance then we will carry out a study for that. And we will make an attempt as well, so that good results can be achieved.”

What’s even more bizarre is that several Congress lawmakers endorse Bhupendra Patel’s position. Imran Khedawala wrote to the CM offering his support. “Parents raise their children”, he said, “so their consent should be mandatory”. In fact, he demanded a bill on this issue in the monsoon session of the Gujarat assembly. “It is important to bring this bill because children are not under the control of their parents these days. They have become callous.”

Khedawala is not the only Congress member of legislative assembly (MLA) to do so. Geniben Thakor is another. The Express says along with Fatesinh Chauhan, “the two MLAs have demanded that the Gujarat Registration of Marriages Act, 2009, be tweaked for love marriages to be registered in the same taluk where the girl lives, in the presence of local witnesses and with the consent of parents.”

Does it occur to any of these good men and women that they regularly appeal to women for votes, and would vehemently dismiss any argument that at that young age, they’re not mature enough to decide who should rule them, yet believe that an 18-year-old can’t marry of her own choice and volition without daddy’s consent? In these matters, mummys are, usually, secondary, if they count at all.

This is a peculiar development in the mother of democracies, as we’ve taken to calling ourselves.

A true democracy seeks ways of expanding the rights of individuals, whether que their parents or the community. That’s how citizens realise their dreams and ambitions.

Our politicians seem determined to do the opposite. We’re restricting rights, narrowing horizons, and imposing the authority of others over the decisions of individuals. We’re moving backwards.

The Gujarat CM, it seems, has misunderstood what the prime minister meant by India’s maternal relationship to democracy. He’s determined our country should be the stepmother of democracy. Unless a fairy godmother can magically materialise, our Cinderellas could remain hidden out of sight whilst our Prince Charmings won’t get the opportunity to kiss their sleeping beauties awake!


Karan Thapar is the author of Devil’s Advocate: The Untold Story. The views expressed are personal

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