The Supreme Court on February 8 again ruled that two adults who have consented to marry do not need to take permissions from family, the community or the clan they belong to. The top court's verdict came on a plea filed by a couple from Karnataka who eloped and got married after the woman's family did not agree to their union.
The court was hearing the case of a Laxmibai Chandaragi whose parents filed a missing person's report after she eloped and married a person without informing them. After investigation, the local police ascertained Chandaragi's whereabouts and found that she had married and was living with her husband. Despite this, police insisted that Chandaragi comes to the local police station to give a statement, failing which a case of kidnapping would be slapped against her husband at her parents' behest.
The court disposing of the plea emphasised the choice of an individual and called it an "inextricable part of dignity, for dignity cannot be thought of where there is erosion of choice." It further added that this right to choice is not expected to succumb to the concept of "class honour" or "group thinking."
The top court's verdict comes at a time when states are introducing anti-conversion laws through marriage. These laws introduced in Uttar Pradesh (UP), Uttarakhand (UK), Madhya Pradesh (MP) and Himachal Pradesh (HP) have already been challenged in the Supreme Court.
"The impugned Acts and Ordinances impose obligations of prior intimation, registration, scrutiny, and police enquiries as a precondition to marriage, which is utterly unconscionable, and indeed obnoxious and unsustainable under our Constitutional scheme," the plea challenging the MP and HP laws read.
Alienating child under garb of caste and community not a desirable exercise: SC
The division bench comprising Justices Sanjay Kisan Kaul and Hrishikesh Roy quashed proceedings with the hope that the woman Chandragi's parents will accept the marriage and re-establish social interaction with the couple. "Under the garb of caste and community to alienate the child and the son-in-law will hardly be a desirable social exercise," the seven-page verdict read.
Justice Kaul and Roy also said that the newer generation is taking the decision to choose their own life partners, unlike earlier where societal and caste, community difference played a vital role in deciding who to marry. "Possibly, this is the way forward where caste and community tensions will reduce by such intermarriage but in the meantime, these youngsters face threats from the elders," the verdict read pointing out that this has resulted in the court coming to the aid of these youngsters.
Police personnel need training on how to handle such cases: SC
In the 2018 Shafin Jahan verdict, the apex court noticed that "the society was emerging through a crucial transformational period." "Intimacies of marriage lie within a core zone of privacy, which is inviolable and even matters of faith would have the least effect on them. The right to marry a person of choice was held to be integral Article 21 of the Constitution of India," the verdict further read.
The Supreme Court said a program to train police personnel was the need of the hour to tackle such cases. Pulling up the local police, the court said its intervention would really not have been required had the investigating officer of the case "conducted himself more responsibly in closing the complain…if he really wanted to record the statement of the petitioner No.1, should have informed that he would visit her and recorded the statement instead of putting her under threat of action against petitioner No.2 to come to the police station," the court added.
"The way forward to the police authorities is to not only counsel the current Investigating Officers but device a training programme to deal with such cases for the benefit of the police personnel. We expect the police authorities to take action on this behalf in the next eight weeks to lay down some guidelines and training programmes how to handle such socially sensitive cases," it added while disposing of the matter.