“A girl aged 24 years is weak and vulnerable, capable of being exploited in many ways” and “her marriage being the most important decision in her life, can also be taken only with the active involvement of her parents.”
– Kerala High Court on Hadiya’s case
These statements by the Kerala High Court while annulling Hadiya’s marriage to her husband made mockery of the fundamental rights bestowed on the citizens of this country by the Constitution. Hadiya in Arabic means a gift. The first gift that an independent India bestowed upon its citizens was the Constitution and the Constitution in turn showered the citizens with the gift of fundamental rights. We have the right to profess, practise and propagate a religion of our choice. We have the right to freedom. The freedom to make a choice. The choice of how, with whom and where we want to spend our life.
|Source: Getty Images|
It was disheartening to see the highest court of law in the state curbing this freedom by calling an adult woman aged 24 “weak and vulnerable“. The Supreme Court rightly reversed the decision but failure of the lower court to protect the rights of two consenting adults is baffling. It resulted in 10 months delay for the justice to prevail and for Hadiya to enjoy her freedom.
|Source: India Today|
Hadiya’s case had been termed as “Love Jihad” (Love Jihad essentially means when one causes the other to convert to Islam through a false hope of love and marriage. While so far there is no proof of any such organised practise, many social and political organizations believe so.) but the irony of the situation is that Hadiya had converted and embraced Islam much before she had even met her husband. The case is neither of jihad nor of conversion for love.
In the year 2010, Hadiya, then Akhila Asokan, the only daughter of her parents joined Sivaraj Homeopathy Medical College & Research Institute in Salem, Tamil Nadu where she made two muslim friends. This was the first time she was acquainted to Islam. With time, she learned more and more about the religion and started practising it. In 2015, she got an affidavit made that she has been practising Islam at her own will. Thereafter, she approached Islamic learning institute Sathya Sarani where she attended a course to learn more about Islam. Here she came into contact with Zainab who helped her register on a Muslim matrimonial site and got married to Shafin Jahan on December 19, 2016 all the while maintaining that she has been acting as per her own will. The Kerela High Court however annulled the marriage after her father Asokan moved the court with a habeas corpus plea. Shefin Jahan moved Supreme Court against this decision.
The Apex Court ordered a NIA probe into the matter to ascertain whether it was an isolated case or is there something more… something wider…. After months long hearing, the Supreme Court in an order on March 8, 2018 set aside the High Court’s judgment annulling her marriage.“She may be brainwashed, but what can we do? Whether the man to whom she is married is good or not is for her to decide. Whether it’s an independent choice or not, only she knows. We can’t get into it. If she comes to court and says she married by her choice, that’s the end of it,”, the Supreme Court observed. The Supreme Court allowing the appeal ordered that the investigations by the NIA in respect of any matter of criminality may continue. The NIA investigation aims to get to the root of allegations of forceful conversions and bids to take the converts to fight for Islamic State. Meanwhile, Asokan aims to file review petition against the decision which historically have had minuscule chances of succeeding.
The Court ordering Hadiya to be at liberty to pursue her future endeavours according to law had upheld its constitutional duty to be the guardian of the rights of the citizens of the country. The Court in this case not only restored her marriage but also her constitutionally granted freedom.