The High Court of Himachal Pradesh, while hearing a plea of an inter caste couple where the man alleged that he was threatened by the woman’s upper caste family, remarked that women are not cattle sans rights.
Justice Vivek Singh Thakur reportedly observed, “It is to be remembered that a girl is not a cattle or non-living thing but a living independent soul having rights, like others, and, on attaining the age of discretion, to exercise her discretion according to her wishes. Unlike ancient western thought, wherein a female was supposed to be created by God from rib of a man for enjoyment of man, in India, a female was always considered not only equal but on higher pedestal than male since Vedic Era, except for evils of Medieval Period, which are necessarily to be eradicated in present era”.
The petitioner man alleged that the woman was detained by her family members so as to prevent solemnisation of marriage of the petitioner with her. He further claimed that the only reason behind the abduction and illegal detention of the woman was because he belonged to a caste that was considered lower, as per the woman’s family.
So, the petitioner prayed for her production and for directions to the State to provide appropriate security to the petitioner and his family members “as there is an imminent threat to their lives and property”.
After perusing the facts of the case, the judgment in paragraph 12 read: “We are living in a State governed by the Constitution and discrimination on the basis of caste by denying of right to choose spouse, is in violation of Fundamental Rights guaranteed under the Constitution of India”.
Recognising the independence of thought as a fundamental feature of Indian culture, Justice Vivek Singh said, “So far as opposition to marriage for difference of caste is concerned, the same is result of spiritual as well as religious ignorance leading to behaviour in violation of constitutional mandate, despite the fact that Constitution is an embodiment of ancient values of Bhartiya Society. It is a basic spiritual as well as religious mandate of all religions that God is everywhere, in everyone and everyone is equal before God. Not only this, it is also considered that existence of God is not only in living creatures but is also in non-living things and, thus, no one is to be discriminated on account of sex, caste, creed, race, colour or financial status.”
The court then referred to the ancient Indian texts to elucidate the ills of discrimination. He said, “Vedas propound a principle of equality and betterment of all without any discrimination by pronouncing that we should work together, eat together, march together and live together for betterment and progress of all. Discrimination on the basis of caste, under the garb of religion, is antithesis of basic spiritual and religious principles which are, unfortunately, relied upon for discrimination. Therefore, discrimination on the basis of caste is not only in violation of constitutional mandate but also in opposition to real Dharma.”
On the right to marry and freedom to choose as an adult, the court cited some examples of ancient Indian scriptures referring to the marriages of Sati and Lord Shiva, Rukmini and Lord Krishna and Subhadra and Arjun. The Single-judge Bench said, “Oldest example of marrying a person of choice is the marriage of Sati with Lord Shiva, which was solemnized in defiance and against the wishes of her father King Daksha Prajapati. Another more than 5,000 years old example of choosing the spouse according to the choice of the girl is of Rukmani and Lord Krishna, as Rukmani was having liking and wish to marry Lord Krishna, whereas her brother was intending to arrange her marriage with Shishupal, whereupon Rukmani had wrote a letter to Lord Krishna to take and accept her as his spouse and Lord Krishna did so by taking her from the Mandapa. Similar example is the marriage of Subhadra and Arjun, where family members were intending to marry Subhadra somewhere else, whereas Subhadra had chosen Arjun as her spouse.”
Emphasising on the fact that women have been placed higher socially ever since the Vedic era, Justice Singh remarked, “Unlike the ancient western thought, wherein a female was supposed to be created by God from the rib of a man for enjoyment of man, in India, a female was always considered not only equal but on higher pedestal than male since the Vedic Era, except for the evils of Medieval Period, which are necessary to be eradicated in present era.”
As the woman was an adult, the court held that she was capable of making her own decisions and was entitled to the right recognized by the Constitution to lead her life exactly as she pleases. The Court then, directed the Superintendent of Police Shimla and Hamirpur, SHOs Sadar (Shimla), District Shimla and Nadaun, District Hamirpur, Himachal Pradesh to depute Police Personnel to escort her from the Court premises to the destination she desires to go.
The judgment may be read here:
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