HC criticises Haryana officials for 'moral policing' interfaith couples, asks them to change mindset

Chandigarh: The Punjab and Haryana High Court has asked Haryana government officials not to create hurdles to interfaith marriages, saying some of the information sought under the state's rules violated privacy.

The Punjab and Haryana High Court's order was on a petition against a ‘checklist' framed by the state government, one of whose provisions required informing a couple's parents about the planned marriage.

The court has suggested that the state government should modify and simplify its court marriage checklist (CMCL) to ensure “minimal executive interference”.

 HC criticises Haryana officials for moral policing interfaith couples, asks them to change mindset

Punjab and Haryana High Court. News18

The court said the procedure must reflect “the mindset of the changed times in a secular nation” instead of the “officialdom raising eyebrows and laying snares and landmines beneath the sacrosanct feet of the Special Marriage Act, 1954”.

In his 20 July order, Justice Rajiv Narain Raina said the Haryana checklist for the registration of marriages should be brought in line with the Act, "avoiding unwarranted overload of obstructions and superfluity”.

A Hindu woman and a Muslim man had sought directions from the court to the Gurugram district marriage officer to not send notices of the intended marriage to their parents.

The couple also wanted the court to stop the officer from publishing anything on the marriage in a national newspaper, as demanded under the checklist.

The notices to the parents impinged on their right to privacy, the couple argued. The woman's petition said she faces virulent opposition to the proposed marriage from her parents.

The counsel for the petitioners had argued that the CMCL directives are “highly offensive, insensitive, arbitrary, primitive and out of sync with the rapidly changing social order”.

Referring to the condition that the couple should not be staying at one place, the counsel said it amounted to moral policing "in a country where live-in relationships are judicially recognized by courts as precious rights among informed adults, whether or not they intend to marry, so long as they do not violate any law."

The court said it has to be kept in mind that the Act was meant to enable a special form of marriage for Indian nationals professing different faiths, or those who wanted a civil form of marriage.

It added that any “unwarranted disclosure of matrimonial plans by two adults” may in certain situations jeopardize the marriage itself.

"In certain instances, it may even endanger the life or limb of one or the other party due to parental interference," the court said.

The court directed the marriage officer to consider the temporary residences of the couple in the marriage application instead of seeking their permanent address.

It directed the officer not to send advance notices to the couple's parents so as to strictly maintain their privacy rights and their right to life and liberty.

The high court was informed by the Gurugram Deputy Commissioner that no officials are asked to visit the residences of the couples for address verification.

The court directed the marriage officer to consider the application only in accordance with the Act and the judgment.

The notice of the intended marriage will be put up at the office of the marriage officer for 30 days, after which the officer may proceed to register the marriage and issue the certificate, the court said.

Updated Date: Jul 26, 2018 23:09:56 IST