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SC questions Kerala HC annulment of Hindu-Muslim marriage

October 03, 2017 12:34 pm | Updated 08:31 pm IST - NEW DELHI

NEW DELHI, 09/04/2013: Supreme Court of India in New Delhi on April 10,  2013. 
Photo: S. Subramanium

NEW DELHI, 09/04/2013: Supreme Court of India in New Delhi on April 10, 2013. Photo: S. Subramanium

After ordering a National Investigation Agency probe into the alleged conversion and marriage of a Hindu girl to a Muslim in Kerala, the Supreme Court on Monday turned around to question the very annulment of the inter-religious marriage by the Kerala High Court and the legality of the girl's father keeping her in his custody for the past several months.

A Bench of Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and D.Y. Chandrachud asked how the High Court, on May 24, annulled the marriage of a woman , who has reached the age of majority, while exercising writ jurisdiction under Article 226, which is used to challenge violations of fundamental rights, legal rights and other basic rights.

“We will hear logical and legal arguments on two issues - can the High Court nullify a marriage exercising jurisdiction under Article 226 and was an NIA probe necessary,” Chief Justice Misra observed and posted the case for hearing on October 9.

Chief Justice Misra then turned to counsel for the girl’s father, observing “she is a 24-year-old woman. You cannot have control over her.”

The court said it could either appoint a loco parentis or send her somewhere safe.“The father cannot say he should have 24-hour custody of her,” Chief Justice Misra observed.

Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta for the NIA countered that the top court under Chief Justice Misra’s immediate predecessor, Justice (now retired) J.S. Khehar, had on August 16 transferred the case from the Kerala Police to the NIA, subsequent to findings that there was a “pattern” of such conversions and marriages in the State.

Senior advocate Dushyant Dave, appearing for the Muslim man, Shafin Jahan, strongly objected to the SC order for NIA investigation. Mr. Jahan has filed a plea for recall of the order.

“The order for NIA investigation strikes at the very foundation of multi-religious society... Two senior BJP functionaries have married members of minority communities... Call the girl here, ask her,” Mr. Dave submitted.

The Kerala government, which had agreed in the SC to give the probe in favour of the NIA, also came forward wanting to file an affidavit.

Former Supreme Court judge, Justice R.V. Raveendran, had refused the SC’s assignment to monitor the NIA probe.

Mr. Jahan’s recall petition requests the apex court to stop the NIA probe in light of subsequent events showing the girl converted of her own free will and she is being confined and “tortured” by her parents.

Mr. Jahan also sought a direction to be issued to the Director General of Police, (Law and Order), Trivandrum, Kerala to produce the girl before the Supreme Court.

His application, through advocate Haris Beeran, refers to an aired video shot by activist Rahul Easwar, featuring the girl objecting to her “house arrest”.

The application claimed that the acting president of the Kerala Human Rights Commission, P. Mohandas had gone on to make a statement that the girl “is undergoing immense human rights violation at her house”. Moreover, the application also quotes the chairperson of Kerala Women’s Commission, M.C. Josephine, indicating that there is “grave human rights violation in the case of the detenue (the girl) and that the commission is willing to act on a complaint”.

The application points out that the retired Supreme Court judge, Justice R.V. Raveendran, whom the Supreme Court had appointed to oversee the NIA investigation, has refused the assignment. It said that in the light of Justice Raveendran’s refusal, the NIA probe should be stopped as it would not be a fair one.

“NIA has already commenced investigation and already found a link, all without the guidance of Justice Raveendran, the worst fears of the petitioners have therefore been realised. That such an investigation is clearly not fair and is against the orders of the Supreme Court,” the application said.

It said that keeping the girl in custody against her will wherein she is not free to practice the religion she has chosen of her own free will is a clear violation of her fundamental rights,” it said.

It said that an NIA probe may not be required and “it is also clear that Respondent No.1 (the girl’s father) is blatantly infringing upon the right of the detenue to live a dignified life with all the liberty and freedom of a consenting adult of sound mind”.

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