30th December, 2020
In view of serious allegation against a Cabinet Minister of the State, who allegedly threatened an Inter-caste couple, the Jharkhand High Court recently directed that a copy of its order along with the copy of the statement of the woman, be communicated to the Chief Minister of the State.
The Bench of Justice H. C. Mishra and Justice Rajesh Kumar was hearing a habeas corpus petition filed by the husband praying for direction for production of the corpus (his wife) before the Court.
Background of the Case
Man-Woman (both adult) married out of their free will and started to lead conjugal life according to their choice.
Thereafter, they were threatened and harassed by the family members of the girl, who were not agreeable to the relationship, as the husband belonged to a different caste.
Eventually somehow, they got the girl in their influence with the intention to separate the couple and thus, the Husband knocked the doors of the High Court.
When the matter was taken up on 21st October 2020, the Court was informed that State’s Counsel had a telephonic talk with her, in which she had stated that she is happy with her parents.
Thereafter, on Wednesday (16th December), the petitioner (Husband) and his wife, were connected through video conference and the Court asked the lady about her choice, initially she repeated the same version that she was happy with her parents.
Court asked for a report from Registrar General of the Court
However, the Court noticed from her demeanour that the lady might be under the influence of her parents.
Accordingly, the Court directed both of them to appear before the Registrar General of the Court on the same day and directed the learned Registrar General to record their statements ensuring that the parties must not be under the influence of their parents or any other person, and to submit the report about their conduct.
Registrar General’s Report
In the report, the Registrar General accessed the wife’s age to be about 22 years, and it was noted in the report that she stated that she is married to the petitioner (Husband), as there was love affair between them.
She told the Registrar General that they married in a Temple and then she went to her matrimonial home on 20th January 2020.
Thereafter, both of them went to Andhra Pradesh and returned back on 21st September 2020 and on 22nd September 2020, there was also a Court marriage between them and she continued to live with her husband for further two nights.
Thereafter, she went to her parents’ place, where she came under the threats of her family members and she was not allowed to go back to her husband.
She also made similar allegation against one Cabinet Minister of the Present Government, who is of the same caste.
She clearly stated that she wanted to live with her husband, but she feared that if they live together they would be killed, as her husband belongs to a different caste.
Importantly, the Court said,
“Time and again it is said that in free India, people who have attained the age of majority are free to marry the person of their choice, irrespective of their caste, creed or religion, to lead a blissful conjugal life with him / her, and there can be no hindrance in this right of the citizens of India from any corner whatsoever, including even their family members.”
Having perused the Registrar General’s report and after interacting with the Couple, the Court was satisfied and convinced that it was a fit case in which both the parties be allowed to live together and the petitioner be asked to take his wife along with him right from the Court itself.
At the same time, the Court also noted that due to illegal interference in her conjugal life by her family members, and may be also from a highly placed political person, who is presently a Cabinet Minister in the State Government, the perception of threat of the Couple may be genuine.
Thus, the Court said that there may be a possibility of undue influence even on the police and so the Superintendent of Police, Bokaro and Officer In-charge of Nawadih Police Station, were directed to ensure free and safe transit to the Husband along with his wife to the Husband’s place.
They have been asked to ensure the safety of the petitioner and his wife at the place of the petitioner.
The Court said,
“The parties shall be free to lead their conjugal life wherever they want, as it is apparent from the statements of both the parties that the husband was earning his livelihood in the state of Andhra Pradesh.”
Though, the Court did not state anything against the conduct of the Cabinet Minister, however, the Court said,
“Since there was a serious allegation against a Cabinet colleague of the present Chief Minister, it would be appropriate that this fact should be brought to his knowledge. We accordingly, direct that a copy of this order along with the copy of the statement of the respondent No.6 (Wife), be communicated to the Hon’ble the Chief Minister of the State, for the needful.“
The Calcutta High on Monday (21st December) made it clear that if an adult marries as per her choice and decides to convert and not return to her paternal house, there could be no interference in the matter.
Also, the Allahabad High Court recently reunited an interfaith couple while noting that the Woman (Shikha) had “expressed that she wants to live with her husband (Salman @ Karan) she is free to move as per her own choice without any restriction or hindrance being created by third party.”
Recently, a division bench of the High Court declared that the right to live with a person of his/her choice irrespective of religion professed by them, is intrinsic to right to life and personal liberty.”
It may be noted that in the celebrated Judgment of Shakti Vahini v. UOI & others, the Supreme Court of India had, in the year 2018, held that “when two adults marry out of their volition, they choose their path; they consummate their relationship; they feel that it is their goal and they have the right to do so.“
“Any kind of torture or torment or ill-treatment in the name of honour that tantamount to atrophy of choice of an individual relating to love and marriage by any assembly, whatsoever nomenclature it assumes, is illegal and cannot be allowed a moment of existence“, the Court further said.
Further, in November 2020, the Karnataka High Court held that the right of any major individual to marry the person of his/her choice is a fundamental right enshrined in the Constitution of India.
A division bench of Justices S Sujata and Sachin Shankar Magadum, while disposing of a habeas corpus petition filed by one Wajeed Khan seeking the release of his lover Ramya from confinement, said:
“It is well settled that a right of any major individual to marry the person of his/her choice is a fundamental right enshrined in the Constitution of India and the said liberty relating to the personal relationships of two individuals cannot be encroached by anybody irrespective of caste or religion.”
Case title – Rajesh Kumar v. The State of Jharkhand. [W.P. (Cr.) (H.B.) (D.B.) No. 231 of 2020]