Conversion conflicts

‘Personal relationships are core of India’s plurality’: Supreme Court restores Hadiya’s marriage

The bench, however, allowed the NIA to continue its investigation into the allegations of forced conversion.

The Supreme Court on Thursday restored the marriage of Hadiya to Shafin Jahan and set aside a May 2017 order of the Kerala High Court that had annulled the union. Hadiya’s conversion from Hinduism to Islam and her subsequent marriage to a Muslim man had set off a political and legal maelstrom.

“Marriage and intimacy of personal relationships are core of plurality in India,” the top court said. “We can’t let state or others makes inroads into this extremely personal space.”

The bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice AM Khanwilkar and Justice DY Chandrachud said they respected her individual choice and that she is free to pursue her future endeavours as per the law. The court said it had arrived at the decision after speaking to Hadiya who had admitted that she had willingly married Jahan.

The court, however, allowed the National Investigation Agency to continue their inquiry into the allegations of forced conversions by a “well-oiled network” in the state.

After annulling the marriage, the Kerala High Court had sent Hadiya back to her parents. But in August 2017, Jahan had moved the Supreme Court, which had observed that a woman’s consent as an adult was the most important aspect to consider in a case.

In the Supreme Court on Thursday, advocate Shyam Divan, who appeared for Hadiya’s father Ashokan, said a marriage can be annulled if it is against public or state interests. “Marriage fraud need not necessarily be affecting the parties [to the marriage] alone,” he said, according to Bar and Bench. “Law on ‘marriage fraud’ has evolved and expanded. Present case is one which warrants annulment of marriage by High Court.”

Advocate Kapil Sibal, who is representing Hadiya’s husband Jahan, said that the right to choose a partner is part of the Right to Life guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution. It is inappropriate to question the marital status of a couple in a habeas corpus petition, he said.

“No one has the locus to challenge marital status of two consenting adults,” Sibal told the bench. “The court’s status in the case is also that of third party’s. It cannot transgress into areas unconnected with the petition. Right to choose a partner is part of right to life under Article 21.”

After the order, Jahan said he had spoken to Hadiya and they were both very happy. “I am very happy... At last we got victory,” he told Scroll.in.

Previous hearings

During the last hearing on February 22, Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra had asked if the court could interfere when two consenting adults say they married at will. “We cannot say this marriage is not in her best interest,” the Supreme Court bench had observed. “We cannot decide whether it is a right choice. We cannot annul a marriage on the ground that the person she has married is not the right person.”

Divan had then argued that the High Court’s decision was justified under Article 226, which empowers High Courts to issue orders to protect the fundamental rights of citizens. Divan had said there was material to prove that a “well-oiled apparatus” was working to convert “vulnerable adults”.

Divan had also urged the Supreme Court to hear what the National Investigation Agency has to say on its inquiry into the “huge trafficking case”. In January, the Supreme Court had said the NIA could investigate allegedly forced conversions, but no aspect of Hadiya’s marriage.

Hadiya has time and again said that she was not forced to convert to Islam and that she only wants to be with her husband. She had filed an affidavit in court on February 20, seeking permission to live with Jahan.

Her father Ashokan has claimed that Jahan was involved in terrorist activities, and that he planned to force Hadiya to join the Islamic State terrorist group. Jahan has dismissed the allegations. Sibal had earlier said that Ashokan, who was upset with Hadiya for converting to Islam and marrying Jahan, had told her that she would be trafficked to Syria.

Support our journalism by subscribing to Scroll+ here. We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Following a mountaineer as he reaches the summit of Mount Everest

Accounts from Vikas Dimri’s second attempt reveal the immense fortitude and strength needed to summit the Everest.

Vikas Dimri made a huge attempt last year to climb the Mount Everest. Fate had other plans. Thwarted by unfavourable weather at the last minute, he came so close and yet not close enough to say he was at the top. But that did not deter him. Vikas is back on the Everest trail now, and this time he’s sharing his experiences at every leg of the journey.

The Everest journey began from the Lukla airport, known for its dicey landing conditions. It reminded him of the failed expedition, but he still moved on to Namche Bazaar - the staging point for Everest expeditions - with a positive mind. Vikas let the wisdom of the mountains guide him as he battled doubt and memories of the previous expedition. In his words, the Everest taught him that, “To conquer our personal Everest, we need to drop all our unnecessary baggage, be it physical or mental or even emotional”.

Vikas used a ‘descent for ascent’ approach to acclimatise. In this approach, mountaineers gain altitude during the day, but descend to catch some sleep. Acclimatising to such high altitudes is crucial as the lack of adequate oxygen can cause dizziness, nausea, headache and even muscle death. As Vikas prepared to scale the riskiest part of the climb - the unstable and continuously melting Khumbhu ice fall - he pondered over his journey so far.

His brother’s diagnosis of a heart condition in his youth was a wakeup call for the rather sedentary Vikas, and that is when he started focusing on his health more. For the first time in his life, he began to appreciate the power of nutrition and experimented with different diets and supplements for their health benefits. His quest for better health also motivated him to take up hiking, marathon running, squash and, eventually, a summit of the Everest.

Back in the Himalayas, after a string of sleepless nights, Vikas and his team ascended to Camp 2 (6,500m) as planned, and then descended to Base Camp for the basic luxuries - hot shower, hot lunch and essential supplements. Back up at Camp 2, the weather played spoiler again as a jet stream - a fast-flowing, narrow air current - moved right over the mountain. Wisdom from the mountains helped Vikas maintain perspective as they were required to descend 15km to Pheriche Valley. He accepted that “strength lies not merely in chasing the big dream, but also in...accepting that things could go wrong.”

At Camp 4 (8,000m), famously known as the death zone, Vikas caught a clear glimpse of the summit – his dream standing rather tall in front of him.

It was the 18th of May 2018 and Vikas finally reached the top. The top of his Everest…the top of Mount Everest!

Watch the video below to see actual moments from Vikas’ climb.

Play

Vikas credits his strength to dedication, exercise and a healthy diet. He credits dietary supplements for helping him sustain himself in the inhuman conditions on Mount Everest. On heights like these where the oxygen supply drops to 1/3rd the levels on the ground, the body requires 3 times the regular blood volume to pump the requisite amount of oxygen. He, thus, doesn’t embark on an expedition without double checking his supplements and uses Livogen as an aid to maintain adequate amounts of iron in his blood.

Livogen is proud to have supported Vikas Dimri on his ambitious quest and salutes his spirit. To read more about the benefits of iron, see here. To read Vikas Dimri’s account of his expedition, click here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Livogen and not by the Scroll editorial team.