Inter-faith couple from Shahjahanpur find safe haven in Delhi

Delhi High Court orders government and police to grant them protection

December 17, 2020 11:26 am | Updated 10:10 pm IST - New Delhi:

A view of Delhi High Court, in New Delhi. File photo

A view of Delhi High Court, in New Delhi. File photo

An inter-faith couple from Shahjahanpur in Uttar Pradesh, who were constrained to leave the State fearing harassment at the hands of vigilante groups, has found a safe haven here in the capital under the direction of the Delhi High Court.

Justice Anu Malhotra on Wednesday ordered the Delhi government and police to grant protection to the couple after they approached the court. Justice Malhotra also directed the Delhi government to provide a ‘safe house’ to the couple.

The couple in their plea stated that they had approached the Delhi government’s Department of Social Welfare (DSW) seeking help to secure their protection and to provide them accommodation in a safe house, as is their right under law.

However, they were turned away by the DSW on December 14, 2020. They stated that the department did not even suggest an alternative location for their accommodation, thus “jeopardising the right to life, liberty and privacy”.

During the hearing, the DSW stated that “adequate safe house in terms of the verdict of the Supreme Court in Shakti Vahini (Supra) would be made available to the petitioners (couple) today itself”.

As the safe house in which the couple would be lodged is within the jurisdiction of Mukherjee Nagar Police Station, the High Court was informed that the number of the concerned beat Constables and Station House Officer would also be provided to the couple.

In their plea filed through advocates Soutik Banerjee and Aakarsh Kamra, the 25-year-old Muslim man and 21-year-old Hindu woman said they fell in love after they met during coaching classes for the preparation of competitive exams.

Advocate Vrinda Grover, appearing for the couple, argued that the couple being educated adults desire to marry each other under the Special Marriage Act, 1954, out of their own free will and volition, without any intention of converting their religion.

However, the parents and relatives of the woman were opposed to their inter-faith matrimonial alliance and had been coercing and pressurising her to marry a man of their choosing, Ms. Grover said.

The woman said her parents and relatives had tortured her both physically and mentally to dissuade her from marrying her partner. She said her maternal as well as paternal uncles had “threatened to bring harm to life and limb” if she did not “live and marry according to the wishes of her father”.

Under these circumstances, on December 11, the couple left their parental homes in Shahjahanpur and travelled to Delhi. Here they approached the NGO Dhanak for Humanity, seeking legal assistance, safety and refuge for themselves since they did not have any secure place of residence.

“Despite the petitioners (the couple) wishing to marry under the Special Marriage Act and not wanting to convert their respective faiths, there is a real and imminent threat that vigilante groups and people acting under their influence may target and harm the petitioners,” Ms. Grover said.

“One of the reasons as to why the Petitioners were constrained to leave Shahjahanpur, Uttar Pradesh was the threat of life, liberty and social ostracism of inter-faith unions in Uttar Pradesh,” the plea said.

They cited multiple media reports of inter-faith couples desirous of marriage facing threats, intimidation and acute harassment at the hands of vigilante groups, vested interests and even the authorities.

“Petitioners being adults and also educated are competent and capable of understanding the consequences of exercising their choice with regard to their marriage partner,” the plea added.

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