Right to convert is part of fundamental right of choice: Supreme Court

Chief Justice Misra described the illegal confinement of Hadiya as the smothering of her liberty.  

The Supreme Court on Monday held that a person's right to choose a religion and marry is an intrinsic part of her meaningful existence. Neither the State nor “patriarchal supremacy” can interfere in her decision.

The observations are part of the 61-page reasoned judgment published by the Supreme Court in the case of Hadiya, a 26-year-old Homeopathy student who converted to Islam and married a Muslim man.

On March 8, a Bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and D.Y. Chandrachud set aside a Kerala High Court order annulling Ms. Hadiya's marriage to Shafin Jahan. The High Court had called the marriage a “sham” and referred to it as “love jihad”. That day, the Supreme Court Bench, in a short order, allowed Ms. Hadiya to re-join Mr. Jahan. Chief Justice Misra said a detailed judgment would follow later in the case which the top judge termed “unique”.

“Freedom of faith is essential to his/her autonomy; Choosing a faith is the substratum of individuality and sans it, the right of choice becomes a shadow,” Chief Justice Misra wrote in an opinion he shared with Justice Khanwilkar.

In his separate but concurring opinion, Justice Chandrachud wrote, “Matters of belief and faith, including whether to believe, are at the core of constitutional liberty. The Constitution exists for believers as well as for agnostics”.

The court held that the Constitution protects the ability of each individual to pursue a way of life or faith to which she or he seeks to adhere. “Matters of dress and of food, of ideas and ideologies, of love and partnership are within the central aspects of identity. Society has no role to play in determining our choice of partners,” Justice Chandrachud wrote.

Chief Justice Misra described the illegal confinement of Ms. Hadiya as the smothering of her liberty.

The judgment castigates the Kerala government for supporting “patriarchal autocracy”. Chief Justice Misra said the high court decision and her father's “obstinate” attitude was an attempt to “garrotte her desire to live with the man with whom she has entered into wedlock”.

Justice Chandrachud expressed his anguish at how the high court tried to decide “just way of life or ‘correct’ course of living for Hadiya”.

“The months which Hadiya lost, placed in the custody of her father and against her will cannot be brought back,” Justice Chandrachud wrote.

Justice Chandrachud wrote that the “absolute right of an individual to choose a life partner is not in the least affected by matters of faith. The Constitution guarantees to each individual the right freely to practise, profess and propagate religion. Choices of faith and belief as indeed choices in matters of marriage lie within an area where individual autonomy is supreme”.

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Printable version | Dec 6, 2021 12:36:48 PM |

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