In a judgment that is more than important at a time when the debate over law against ‘love jihad’ is going on, the Allahabad High Court has said that interference in a personal relationship would constitute a serious encroachment into the right to freedom of choice of two individuals.
The verdict came in response to a plea filed by a Muslim man for quashing of an FIR registered against him by his wife’s parents. Notably, the woman had converted to Islam to marry the petitioner, which was not accepted by her parents.
As per the case details, Salamat Ansari and Priyanka Kharwar got married in August 2019. Priyanka converted to Islam and changed her name to Alia just before the wedding. This resulted in the woman’s parents filing an FIR against Salamat. He was charged with kidnapping and abduction to compel a marriage along with charges under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act.
Challenging the FIR, Salamat and Priyanka had alleged that it was “prompted by malice and mischief only with a view to bring an end to marital ties, and that no offences are made out.”
In response, the lawyers for the UP government and the woman’s parents argued that religious conversion to marry is banned and that “the marriage has no sanctity in law. So, the court should not exercise its extraordinary jurisdiction in favour of such a couple, they said.
HC’s verdict in favour of the Muslim man
After ascertaining that the woman was an adult at the time of marriage, the court set-aside the FIR, while making a series of observations to uphold “life and liberty”.
It said: “We do not see Priyanka Kharwar and Salamat Ansari as Hindu and Muslim, rather as two grown-up individuals who – out of their own free will and choice – are living together peacefully and happily over a year. The Courts and the Constitutional Courts, in particular, are enjoined to uphold the life and liberty of an individual guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.”
The division bench added: “We fail to understand that if the law permits two persons even of the same sex to live together peacefully then neither any individual nor a family nor even state can have objection to relationship of two major individuals who out of their own free will are living together.”
“Decision of an individual who is of the age of majority, to live with an individual of his/her choice is strictly a right of an individual and when this right is infringed it would constitute breach of his/her fundamental right to life and personal liberty as it includes right to freedom of choice, to choose a partner and right to live with dignity as enshrined in Article 21 of the Constitution of India.”
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