'Neither family nor State can object to people living together of free will': Allahabad HC quashes FIR against Muslim man
Justices Pankaj Naqvi and Vivek Agarwal also overturned two previous verdicts of the high court, which said that religious conversion solely for the purpose of marriage was prohibited, saying that they are not 'good in law'
The Allahabad High Court on Tuesday stated in a judgment that a person’s right to live with people of their choice, irrespective of religion, is intrinsic to their right to life and personal liberty guaranteed by the Constitution.
“We fail to understand that if the law permits two persons even of the same sex to live together peacefully then neither any individual nor a family nor even State can have any objection to the relationship of two major individuals who out of their own free will are living together,” a bench of Justices Pankaj Naqvi and Vivek Agarwal said.
The court was hearing a petition filed by Salamat Ansari and Priyanka Kharwar (now Alia) who tied the knot on 19 August last year after Kharwar converted to Islam. The plea sought the quashing of an FIR, filed by Alia’s father, alleging that the Muslim man (Ansari) had kidnapped the Hindu woman (Kharwar aka Alia) and forcefully married her.
The FIR was filed under various provisions of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) including Section 363 (kidnapping), Section 366 (kidnapping, abducting or inducing a woman to compel her marriage), Section 352 (assault), and Section 506 (criminal intimidation), along with provisions of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.
In their plea, the couple had sought that the FIR be dismissed as they tied the knot willingly as consenting adults. The woman’s father’s lawyer argued that conversion for marriage is prohibited, relying on a 2014 judgment which had held the conversion for marriage not bonafide, while noting that the girls who entered interfaith marriages did not know about Islam and did not have any “real faith and belief in the unity of God and Mohammad to be the prophet”. The petition by the father also relied on a judgment from September this year which held that “conversion just for the purpose of marriage is unacceptable”.
The court not only overturned these two verdicts but also stated that they were not “good in law”.
“We do not see Priyanka Kharwar and Salamat as Hindu and Muslim, rather as two grown-up individuals who out of their own free will and choice are living together peacefully and happily over a year,” it observed.
The court, also noted that Alia was 21-year-old and said the fact that the petition is filed and supported her affidavit “goes to show that she is voluntarily living with Salamat Ansari as a married couple”. This ensures that provisions of the IPC and POCSO Act do not apply and quashed the FIR.
The 14-page judgment also comes amid Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, and several other BJP-ruled states, including Karnataka, Haryana, and Madhya Pradesh, recently stating that they would bring a law to stop "love jihad". The term "love jihad" is used by right-wing Hindutva groups alleging a "conspiracy" by Muslim men to convert Hindu women to Islam by forcing them into marriage.
The Bench noted that government interference in a relationship between two adults and that an adult’s decision to live with another adult of their choice is their right.
Denial of this right will amount to a breach of “fundamental right to life and personal liberty as it includes right to freedom of choice, to choose a partner and right to live with dignity as enshrined in Article 21”, the Justices said.
“Right to live with a person of his/her choice irrespective of religion professed by them is intrinsic to right to life and personal liberty. Interference in a personal relationship would constitute a serious encroachment into the right to freedom of choice of the two individuals,” the court had observed in a verdict passed on 11 November.
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