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By FutureLaw Desk

During a hearing in the contentious marriage dispute case in Kerala, the Supreme Court of India observed that the consent of the girl for the marriage is paramount as she is an adult by law.

In this sensational case, a girl from Kerala named Hadiya (previously known as Akhila Ashokan) married a Muslim man Shafin Jahan, and converted to Islam. This marriage however, was annulled by the Kerala high court in May this year based on the complaint of her father who alleged that she had been unlawfully indoctrinated into Islam and held captive by her husband. In this regard, the Supreme Court of India ordered the girl to be produced before it for an interaction on November 27. The case is highlighted and widely discusses in the media as ‘Kerala Love Jihad case’.

Supreme Court issued the directive to K M Ashokan (Hadiya’s father), who was given legal custody of Hadiya after the annulment of her marriage by the Kerala High Court. Hadiya’s husband Shafin Jahan had also filed an appeal to the Supreme Court to overturn the High Court’s decision on their marriage.

A three-members bench of the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra stated that it will interact with the 24-year-old girl in open court to take a preliminary assessment of her mental state. If any indoctrination is suspected, they will institute a detailed examination of the girl by appropriate authorities, the bench said.

To the question on the constitutionality of the HC’s order raised by the Chief Justice of India, Manindar Singh, the Additional Solicitor General of India (ASG) said: “Constitutionality of the law does not mean it is cast in stone and doesn’t require any variation depending on the facts of a case”. He added that it was a case of “psychological kidnapping”.

The Chief Justice said her consent would be vitiated if she was not in a healthy mental state.

The ASG submitted that the Kerala High Court had already found that she was not in a state of mind to take decisions on her own, and added that there was a “well-oiled machinery by which even girls at that age are targeted”. “In such cases of indoctrination, it would be an exception to consent,” he added.

Background of the ‘Love Jihad’ investigation and litigation

The National Investigation Agency of India submitted a sealed cover report to the Supreme Court on the pattern emerging from conversion of several young Hindu girls to Islam in Kerala, and how several persons had played a common role in convincing these girls to change their faith. Initially the Supreme Court had asked the NIA to probe the ‘love jihad’ angle after the case of Hadiya came to light. According to NIA, there is a pattern of such indoctrination in 89 such cases in Kerala.

Very recently, in a directive for a habeas corpus writ filed in the Kerala High Court, the two member bench of the High Court stated that, every case of inter-religion marriage shall not be portrayed on a religious canvass and create fissures in the communal harmony. The court said it was appalled to notice the recent trend in Kerala to sensationalize every case of interfaith marriage as either ‘love jihad’ or ‘ghar wapsi’.

Featured Image and news courtesy – The Indian Express