The Supreme Court of India has taken up a case that draws parallels with the Hadiya case, which had made international headlines.
A Habeas Corpus petition has been filed by one Mohd Ibrahim Sidhiqui (appellant) who converted to Hinduism and took the name of Aryan Arya to marry his lady love.
And as is the case with Hadiya, this is an appeal from a High Court verdict; this time it is a Chhattisgarh High Court ruling that has come under challenge.
It is the petitioner’s case before the Supreme Court that the High Court had erroneously declined to direct the release of the appellant’s wife, Anjali Jain to her husband.
It has been contended that the High Court, despite recording that the detenue was a major of 23 years of age, and by her own admission was married to the appellant, limited her freedom by refusing to release her. Instead, it gave her the option to either live with her parents or be accommodated in a hostel.
Advocate Nikhil Nayyar briefed by advocate Ambuj Agarwalappeared for the appellant today before a Bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justice DY Chandrachud. The Bench issued notice to the District Magistrate at Dhamtari in Chhattisgarh, the Superintendent of Police at Dhamtari, the Station House Officer of City Kotwali, and the father of the woman, Ashok Kumar Jain.
The Court also directed the Superintendent of Police, Dhamtari to produce the woman before the Court on August 27.
The appellant, aged about 33 years, and the detenue Anjali Jain, aged about 22 years, are both residents of Dhamtari district in Chattisgarh. They were in a relationship for the past two to three years.
Siddhiqui converted from Islam to Hinduism on February 23, 2018 at Raipur, Chhattisgarh and adopted the name Aryan Arya.
After his conversion, the appellant and Anjali Jain got married at the Arya Samaj Temple at Raipur, Chhattisgarh on February 25, 2018, as per Hindu rites and traditions.
Anjali Jain returned to her parents’ home at Dhamtari, Chhattisgarh but did not inform her parents about her marriage. The appellant and Anjali had hoped that they would create a conducive atmosphere and gradually disclose their marriage to Anjali’s family.
However, Anjali’s parents got to know about her marriage with the appellant from some outside sources.
The appellant and Anjali then planned for her to move out of her parents’ home without informing her parents and shift to the appellant’s house. Towards that objective, Anjali left her parents’ home at night of June 30.
However, before she could meet the appellant, she was found by some policemen who first took her to the police station and from there to Sakhi Center, a crisis centre set up for women by the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development.
It has been contended that despite her wish to go with her husband, the local State Police recorded her statement incorrectly that she wished to go with her parents, and gave custody to her father Ashok Jain.
The appellant then filed a Habeas Corpus petition before the Chhattisgarh High Court due to inaction by police authorities despite complaints being made to them.
High Court order.
In the Writ Petition, the appellant urged that there was a threat to his and his wife’s life and that his wife was being deprived of her liberty against her wishes by her family members. He further mentioned that he was being threatened by his wife’s family members and some other “orthodox members of the society”.
It was also submitted that the police authorities were not acting on the complaint of the appellant due to the clout and influence of the family members of his wife Anjali Jain.
The High Court proceeded to direct Anjali Jain and her father to be produced in Court. They were so produced on July 30.
The Court interacted with Anjali Jain and proceeded to hold that she denied any illegal detention by her parents. However, the court also noted her statement that her parents have “serious reservations with regard to the relationship, or the so–called marriage between her and the appellant”.
The Court then proceeded to note that there is an emotionally charged atmosphere giving rise to concerns about security and safety of the appellant and Anjali Jain.
It, therefore, ruled that “certain breathing space and time is required to be given in a free atmosphere to Anjali Jain to make up her own independent mind”.
The High Court, therefore, made it categorical that it cannot release Anjali Jain in favour of the appellant for the time being.
She has the freedom to either go with her parents if she so desires, or in case she does not want to live with her parents, then an alternative arrangement of accommodation can be worked out for her in a hostel, the Court ruled.
The Court also noted in its order about claims of Anjail’s parents with respect to her mental condition,
“The parents of the girl however have submitted that she is under some kind of medical treatment because of her mental condition and situation. It is made clear that access to medical treatment and medication will be made available to her as and when needed.”
The appellant has now approached the Supreme Court against this order.
SLP in the Supreme Court
The appellant has contended that despite Anjali Jain expressing her independent desire to go with the appellant, the High Court erroneously declined to direct her release.
The only relevant factor to be considered while deciding a Habeas Corpus petition dealing with the issue of private custody of an adult girl by her parents is the independent choice of the girl/detenue, the petition states.
It is his argument that while deciding a Habeas Corpus petition dealing with the issue of private custody of a girl by her parents, the High Court could not have taken into consideration the wishes or opinions of the girl’ parents, considering that she is an adult of about 23 years of age.
The appellant has placed reliance on the Supreme Court judgment in the Hadiya case to buttress his argument.
“Hon’ble High Court erred in not following the law laid down by this Hon’ble Court in Shafin Jahan and Others v. Asokan K.M. and Others, 2018 (5) SCALE 422, whereby this Hon’ble Court has clearly laid down that the role of Court in dealing with a Habeas Corpus petition is to see that the detenue is produced before it, find out about his/her independent choice and see to it that the person is released from illegal restraint.
It is submitted that in the instant case, the detenue Anjali Jain after being produced before the High Court had clearly expressed in open Court that she wished to live with the Petitioner, but the High Court disallowed her to do so and directed her to choose to live with her parents or go to a Hostel. It is respectfully submitted that the impugned order is thus patently illegal and liable to be set aside.”
The Court proceeded to issue notice to the State and also directed the Superintendent of Police, Dhamtari to produce Anjali Jain before the Court on August 27.