Jharkhand High Court, while upholding an adult’s right to choose a life partner, granted an inter-caste couple police protection and also notified the Chief Minister of a speculation that a Cabinet Minister of the State was involved in intimidating the couple. The court was dealing with a petition filed by the husband, an adult, seeking release of his wife from her paternal home.
The couple got married in a temple in January 2020 and legally registered their marriage in September. When she went to her paternal home, she was threatened and virtually imprisoned by her family, who allegedly threatened to kill her husband if she returned. She has also alleged that a Cabinet Minister of the State, her father’s neighbour, also was part of such intimidation and threats.
The bench comprising Justices Rajesh Kumar and HC Mishra, as if reiterating what other courts in the country have held, stated, “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.”
When the hearing was convened in October, the woman had told the government counsel over the phone, while being present at the police station that she was happy with her parents. In fact, on the hearing held on December 16, as well the woman repeated the same version that she was happy with her parents but the court noticed her demeanor while she was talking to her husband, and the court observed that she might be under influence of her parents.
Hence, the court directed that her statement be recorded by the Registrar General separately whereby she stated that she wants to live with her husband, but she fears that if they live together they would be killed, as her husband belongs to a different caste.
The court held thus, “For the purpose of this writ application, we are satisfied and convinced that it is 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.” The court further observed that while being in police station also, she had stated under influence that she was happy with her parents and hence inferred the possibility of undue influence even on the police. The court did not form any definite opinion about the conduct of the Cabinet Minister, but since there is a serious allegation, the court directed that a copy of this order along with the copy of the statement of the woman making such allegation, be communicated to the Chief Minister of Jharkhand.
The court directed Superintendent of Police, Bokaro and Officer In-charge of Nawadih Police Station, to ensure free and safe transit to the petitioner along with his wife to the petitioner’s place, and their further safety so they can live their conjugal life without interference from any source.
Indian criminal justice system is still struggling with victim and witness protection, and rights activists are continually striving for police protection to be granted to victims or witnesses in criminal cases. Now has come a time when couples of inter-caste and inter-faith marriages need to be accorded police protection as their own families might pose a threat to their lives.
The order may be read here.