A writ petition has been filed in the Bombay High Court challenging the Maharashtra Government notification which established the Family Coordination Committee to monitor inter-faith and inter-caste marriages in Maharashtra.
The petition filed by Samajwadi Party MLA, Rais Shaikh states that the resolution is discriminatory against a particular religion and is violative of Articles 14 (right to equality), Article 15 (forbidding discrimination), 21 (right to life which includes the right to privacy), and 25.
“That the assumption that adult women who choose and consent to marry someone from another faith need to be ‘saved’ is misplaced and goes against the spirit of the Constitution,” the plea states adding that, “without the couple having any control on who has access to their private information (GR) is contributory to d ever ongoing campaign of the parents, vigilante groups & society to control the lives of young people who have decided to choose their own partners”
Stating that the resolution is discriminatory against a particular religion and is thus violative of Articles 14 (right to equality), Article 15 (forbidding discrimination), 21 (right to life which includes the right to privacy), and 25 (right to freedom of religion) of the Constitution of India amongst other Articles, the petition filed on March 10 will come up over the next few weeks.
Shaikh alleges in his petition that the government resolution (GR) is the Maharashtra government’s attempt “to discourage and/or forbid inter-faith marriages and is essentially a precursor to laws related to purported love jihad marriages which have been brought in in nine states in India.”
The Maharashtra Government issued the GR on December 13, 2022 following the gruesome murder of Shraddha Walkar in Delhi allegedly by her inter-faith live-in partner and the committee is allegedly meant to provide a platform to ‘counsel, communicate and resolve’ issues between couples and families. According to the GR, the committee can intervene at the behest of any person, which the plea alleges is a breach of the couple’s privacy “especially when two consenting adults are married to each other”.
Significantly, the Petitioner states that the discourse around marriage in India fails to place adult individuals at the centre, and family and societal forces have always played a role in determining young people’s futures.
The GR “without the couple having any control on who has access to their private information is contributory to the ever ongoing campaign of the parents, vigilante groups and society to control the lives of young people who have decided to choose their own partners.”
The plea, filed through advocate Jeet Gandhi, alleges that the GR seeks to create a “regressive” and “false narrative that it is only in interfaith or intercaste marriages that a girl is at risk from her partner.”
It is particularly ultra vires for creating a narrative that inter faith marriages are something out of the ordinary and a rarity, therefore requiring constant scrutiny, the plea states. “No marriage of two consenting adults requires scrutiny and/or to be under a constant scanner or outside supervision.”
According to the GR, the committee can seek information of both registered and unregistered marriages. However, the petitioner cautions that this would violate several rights of a couple who’ve “effectuated the marriage by elopement.” The Government Resolution has been issued unilaterally and in extreme haste under suspicious circumstances without following the due procedure and is thus also ultra vires to the constitution, the plea adds.
Distressed women can always seek refuge under various statutes under existing laws like the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 and Indian Penal Code, if desired. The petition therefore seeks to quash the GR and all the action that may have been taken pursuant to the GR. In the interim the Government may be directed to stay action pursuant to the GR.
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