The case related to annulment of interreligious marriage between a Muslim groom and Hindu turned Muslim bride by the Kerala High Court has caught the imagination of the entire nation.
This national interest in this case is because it has reached the Supreme Court where some high profile lawyers of the country are arguing for and against, bringing out many layers of this high profile matrimonial dispute.
The center of the controversy is an adult Hindu girl who has converted to Islam and married a Muslim boy through arranged marriage that was objected by her parents calling it an act of criminal conspiracy.
The girl’s parents moved Kerala High Court alleging that the marriage of their daughter was illegal because she was trapped by a radical Islamic organization that converted her faith and then married her to a recruiting agent of Islamic state of Syria and Iraq, to be sent to the terror organization ISSI.
The Muslim man who married this girl prayed before the High Court that he had an arranged marriage through a Muslim matrimonial site and he does not care about the past antecedent of the girl.
The marriage has taken place through the free will of two adult Muslim partners and there is nothing illegal or criminal about it.
After hearing both sides, the Kerala high court upheld the parent’s version and annulled the marriage and sent the girl to the parent’s house.
The husband has gone on an appeal to the Supreme Court challenge the high court’s judgment calling it ‘an insult to the entire woman of India.’
There are three things that are at the centre of debate; one is the issue of religious conversion, second is the free will of making choice for matrimonial alliance and the third is national security issue that’s being compromised through religious conversion and sham marriages.
The follow up on first issue is, can the freedom to choose one’s faith maintainable for judicial interpretation? In the other words, can the fundamental right be subjected of judicial review?
The second is the freedom of an adult to choose his/her partner for matrimonial alliance and in case of its negation, the ‘future’ of the institution of marriage.
The Supreme Court bench hearing this case has kept the first two central issues of this case at abeyance and want to expedite the third issue that is to probe the criminal angle of this case.
Many following this case are of the view that criminal angle is a separate issue and even if that is found to be true have no being on the conversion and matrimonial issues. Can, all such marriages will be annulled if the ‘iceberg’ is found by the court?
However, going by the honourable Supreme Court’s direction that has asked the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) to probe the criminal angle of the case first as it involves national security we have to wait and watch on the further development of the case.
It is only after the NIA submits its report that that the Apex Court it will pronounce its judgement on the two central issues of this case. Till then the girl in the centre of the controversy of the case has to remain separated from her husband and live in her parent’s house with or without her wish.
In an interview, the girl has protested her current status of her stay in her parental home but the apex court has not shown any concern on her current status and has not called her for her personal appearance to ascertain her will, points to the seriousness of the security issue of the case.
As all these events are unfolding the honourable Court has equated this case to ‘Bule whale’ phenomena that generates suicidal impulses, and this has made Emily Durkheims more curious, thanks to Jio 4G. Everyone is holding breath to know the linkages of ‘blue whale’ with this case and applaud the learned comment of the adjudicators of the law.
However, as the curiosity is building in this case, there are some concerns too have been raised about this high profile potpourri of conversion, marriage and security challenges that this case has thrown open to full public view.
The first concern is; can an adult marriage be annulled by a court of law at the behest of the third part’s petition i.e. parent’s?
The second is; can a 26 year old educated woman be indoctrinated by a religious organization to change her faith and even if it does so force her to marry? This case raises the question of the legality of the religious conversion and the choice of one’s faith.
The third is, can wishes of parents be enforced by the court of law on an adult citizen of the country and if so and what would be the veracity of such legal protection in the future societal discourse? The difference between ‘khap panchayat’ and court law seems getting blurred with the high court’s judgement in this case.
The fourth concern is; is the court trying to re-interpretation its own judgement by annulling the inter-religious marriages and calling it illegal. In past, the courts have protected such marriages for building a harmonious society but now overruling the same giving the message of disturbance to social peace. Is this the right way forward?
The fifth concern is, even the criminal angel to the case and the security issue is established, and how can this be a ground to annul a marriage. Are criminals not entitled for marriage or they have to wait to marry till they are exonerated by the court!
Here the Rajiv Gandhi assassins case, Nalani and Murgan, both life convict can be cited whose marriage took place after promiscuous relationship in jail and that was upheld as legal. If that’s so, why the Kerala couple marriage is pronounced as illegal even without the criminal angle to the marriage is yet to be established?
The eighth concern is, even if the organization involved in this case of alleged forcible religious conversion is found to be true, can this be a ground for annulling a marriage.
The two organizations under the scanner of NIA have been functioning since the pre independence era. They have been doing what they are mandated to do through the constitutional provisions that are the freedom to teach Islam to its new converts. It is felt that by probing the activity of such organization, the court is exerting pressures on them to refrain from the constitutional practices.
However, in case if there anything illegal about them these organizations should be brought to justice, however this has to be treated separately and cannot be linked to the matrimonial freedom, the central issue of this debate.
The petitioner has prayed against the Kerala high court’s judgement “as an insult to the woman of India.” The verdict of the apex court is eagerly awaited on this point because willy-nilly this case cast a slur on Mother India.
The actual fact is the centre of this case is a Muslim women who have been practicing her new religion at her Hindu parents’ home. She had converted her faith long before her actual marriage and when this objected her parents, she left her parental house and took shelter in a Islamic organization.
She took up a job there and looked for matrimonial alliance, and when she found one such match through a matrimonial site, she consented for an arranged marriage with her free will.
The parent of the girl saw a conspiracy in this marriage and raised the national security issue to catch the attention of the court. The Kerala High Court has taken cognizance of the parent’s views and has annual the marriage. However in the absence of the evidences of criminal activity in the public domain, the high court’s judgement has cast doubts in people’s mind.
The Supreme Court has thought more urgent to probe the recruitment cell of the Islamic state of Syria and Iraq, angle more important suggests the gravity of this case. Further by linking this case to “blue whale,” web game, the court has made a potpourri of conversion, marriage and security concerns that lay at the bottom of this case.
However by delaying in ascertaining the view of the girl and knowing her wishes, the court has further extended the penance of the girl who after the high court verdict is sent to his parents’ house with or without her wish. It is still unknown whether her fundamental right to profess her religion is being protected in current location where she is confined in a room at her parent’s house.
As such this case has to shed many lights. In the end it may turn out to be a hoax and an overreaction by the court or it may unravel an iceberg that the NIA says is at the tip of this case.
Whatever may be the real findings, it goes without saying that this case has really stirred a hornet’s nest in the heated communal atmosphere in the country.
The charge that the minorities are feeling unsafe in the country is further getting exacerbated with the popularity of this case.
As such a follow up to the appointment of NIA, the apex court may also appoint another committee to ascertain the fact that how many such marriages have been sham or successful before. This will once for all lay to rest the controversy of ‘love jihad’.
[Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at; firstname.lastname@example.org.]