By Sharanya Gopinathan
The Supreme Court has finally admitted that Hadiya’s choice of husband is her own!
It does sound like a bit of a grudging admission, but while hearing an oral request filed by Hadiya’s husband, Shafin Jahan, the Court made a variety of intriguing oral observations (unfortunately not binding in law) on the rights and freedoms Hadiya has.
Most importantly, it warned that the SC’s verdict on Hadiya’s case would not be coloured by the results of the ongoing NIA investigation into “love jihad” on the part of Shafin Jahan.
The 3-judge SC bench, presided over by embattled Chief Justice Dipak Mishra, said that the SC in the Hadiya case was merely looking at whether a High Court could annul a marriage between two consenting adults, and emphasised that it would present its verdict on this matter independent of the NIA probe. Meaning the only question of law that the SC is concerned with is whether Hadiya and Shafin’s marriage should have been annulled, and not Hadiya’s father’s claim that Jahan is an ISIS-recuiter.
It also said that the NIA should not investigate Hadiya’s marital choices at all. The bench said, “Even if we assume that the marriage was devised, you cannot probe the legitimacy of her choice. […] We cannot investigate her marriage and marital status. She is an adult and not a child. We cannot investigate whether she married a good person or a bad person. That’s her choice.”
So the Court has finally stepped in and observed that adult women have the right to marry whomever they want.
The Court also ironically said that as a 24-year-old woman, Hadiya has the right to choose whom she lives with and where, and can’t be compelled to remain in the custody of her parents. Which is a bit of a departure from when the SC itself sent Hadiya to her parents’ custody, and later, directed her to live in her college hostel despite her wishes to live with Jahan.
Still, despite all the earlier bumblings, these latest statements from the Supreme Court hopefully portend a positive result in the Hadiya case. The Court will continue to hear the matter on 22 February.
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