Hadiya's marriage restored
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday set aside a Kerala High Court order and restored the marriage of Hadiya and Shafin Jahan, upholding adults' right to choose their spouses.
The bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and D.Y. Chandrachud, however, allowed the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to continue its investigations into "any matter of criminality".
The agency is probing charges of the so-called "love jihad" - an alleged conspiracy to lure Hindu girls into conversion and marriage with Muslims and send them to join terrorist outfits like the Islamic State - in relation to inter-religious marriages in Kerala like Hadiya's.
On a petition from Hadiya's father Asokan, Kerala High Court had annulled the marriage last May on the ground that Hadiya, who is in her mid-20s, had been brainwashed into marriage and radicalised.
"We hold that the high court should not have annulled the marriage," the apex court said, drawing a distinction between consenting adults' right to marry and any criminal intent they may be alleged to have.
Justice Misra said: "Let us assume for a moment that in the extreme event the marriage is a disguise to commit an offence. In that case, you may arrest the offender but not investigate into whether or not the marriage is a disguise."
Justice Chandrachud said that even assuming that Hadiya was to be sent to West Asia to join a terror outfit, the government could always revoke her passport and impose travel curbs.
After briefly declaring its verdict, which upholds an appeal by Shafin, the bench said it would soon deliver a full, "reasoned judgment". Neither Hadiya nor Shafin was present in court.
Asokan said he would file a review petition. Such petitions are heard by the same bench and have historically had a near-zero probability of success.
Earlier, Asokan's counsel Shyam Divan had told the court that "the concept of marriage between consenting adults is being employed to defeat the law... so as to give effect to the act of trafficking (to West Asia)".
Additional solicitor-general Maninder Singh offered similar arguments on behalf of the NIA. "This argument does not impress us. We have interacted with the girl," Justice Misra said.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, representing Shafin, argued for adults' right to pick their life partners and said a court could not act as a "super-guardian" for an adult.
In November, the apex court interacted with Hadiya, relieved her from parental custody and allowed her to resume her homoeopathy studies in Tamil Nadu.