Image courtesy: Bar and Bench
Supreme Court has upheld right to marry a person of choice as a fragment of Article 21 and observed that perhaps intermarriage was the way forward so that caste and community tensions may reduce.
The bench comprising Justices SK Kaul and Hrishikesh Roy held that “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”
Basappa Chandaragi filed a missing complaint with Murgod Police station, Belagavi, Karnataka about his daughter. Accordingly, statements of relatives were recorded and upon accessing call records it became clear that the daughter, Laxmibai Chandaragi was in contact with petitioner no. 2 Santosh Singh Yadav and in the course of investigation the police found that Laxmibai Chandaragi without informing her parents, had travelled by flight from Hubli to Bangalore and further from Bangalore to Delhi and thereafter married petitioner No.2 and also sent her marriage certificate to her parents through whatsapp.
The Police went to Ghaziabad to the house of Yadav’s parents who said they were not aware of the whereabouts of either of the petitioners, but then Laxmibai spoke to the investigating officers and informed him that she was married and living with Santosh. But the IO insisted that she should appear before the Murgod police station to record a statement so that the case can be closed. Thereafter, she sent a letter to the IO stating that there was a threat from her parents and thus, was unable to visit the police station. The case of missing person was still not closed by the police.
The couple then approached Allahabad High Court, where the matter could not be taken upon even after about a period of one month for urgent hearing. The petitioners thus approached the Supreme Court citing issue of duality of jurisdiction since she hailed from Karnataka and now she was residing in Uttar Pradesh. The petitioners submitted a transcript of conversation with the IO whereby the IO is asking her to come back to Karnataka as otherwise they will come to her and register a case of kidnapping against Santosh at the behest of her family members. The IO also stated that the family members may file a case against her that she has stolen things from the home and if an FIR is filed, there would be a negative mark against Santosh, and they would have to arrest him which would be problematic for his job also.
The court held that this did not reflect very well on the police authorities or the IO, since the marriage certificate was already sent and she stated she was already married and felt threatened and was apprehensive of visiting the police station. The court opined that the IO could have just visited the petitioners, and recorded Laxmibai’s statement rather than insisting her to visit Karnataka. The court also took notice of how the IO sought to compel Laxmibai on the threat of registering a false case against her. “We strongly deprecate the conduct of the IO in adopting these tactics and the officer must be sent for counselling as to how to manage such cases,” stated the court.
The court observed that youngsters are choosing their life partners while departing from societal norms of caste and community.
Possibly, this is the way forward where caste and community tensions will reduce by such inter marriage but in the meantime these youngsters face threats from the elders and the Courts have been coming to the aid of these youngsters.
The court placed reliance upon two judgments, viz., Shakti Vahini v. Union of India (2018) 7 SCC 192 and Asha Ranjan v. State of Bihar (2017) 4 SCC 397 while upholding the views expressed by this court in these cases,
We are fortified in our view by earlier judicial pronouncements of this Court clearly elucidating that the consent of the family or the community or the clan is not necessary once the two adult individuals agree to enter into a wedlock and that their consent has to be piously given primacy. It is in that context it was further observed that the choice of an individual is an inextricable part of dignity, for dignity cannot be thought of where there is erosion of choice. Such a right or choice is not is not expected to succumb to the concept of “class honour” or “group thinking.
The court also cited Shafin Jahan v. Asokan K M & Ors. (2018) 16 SCC 408 to state that the society was emerging through a crucial transformational period. The court’s views on right to marry a person of choice were expressed as follows:
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 court further relied upon K.S. Puttaswamy v. Union of India to refer to right to privacy whereby the autonomy of an individual inter alia in relation to family and marriage were held to be integral to the dignity of the individual.
The court said that if the IO had simply conducted himself more responsibly and closed the case by recording Laxmibai’s statement by going to her residence, the court’s intervention would not have been required. The court encouraged police authorities to lay down guidelines on how to handle socially sensitive cases.
The way forward to the police authorities is to not only counsel the current IOs 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 in this behalf in the next eight weeks to lay down some guidelines and training programmes how to handle such socially sensitive cases.
The court quashed the FIR registered on missing persons complaint “with the hope that parents of petitioner No.1 will have a better sense to accept the marriage and re-establish social interaction” with both petitioners.
On conclusion, the court quoted from Dr. BR Ambedkar’s ‘Annihilation of Caste’
“I am convinced that the real remedy is inter-marriage. Fusion of blood can alone create the feeling of being kith and kin, and unless this feeling of kinship, of being kindred, becomes paramount, the separatist feeling—the feeling of being aliens—created by Caste will not vanish. Where society is already well-knit by other ties, marriage is an ordinary incident of life. But where society is cut asunder, marriage as a binding force becomes a matter of urgent necessity. The real remedy for breaking caste is inter-marriage. Nothing else will serve as the solvent of caste.”
The complete judgment may be read here: