The Karnataka High Court on Monday upheld the right of an individual to marry the person of his or her choice, saying it was a fundamental right enshrined in the Constitution, Live Law reported.

“It is well settled that a right of any major individual to marry the person of his/her choice is a fundamental right enshrined in the Constitution of India and the said liberty relating to the personal relationships of two individuals cannot be encroached by anybody irrespective of caste or religion,” a bench of Justices S Sujata and Sachin Shankar Magadum said.

Wajeed Khan, a software engineer, had filed a petition seeking the release of a woman, Ramya, from confinement.

Ramya, who was produced before the court, said that she was staying at Mahila Dakshatha Samithi, a non-governmental organisation in Bengaluru’s Vidyaranyapura. She had filed a complaint with the Janodaya Santwana Kendra, a family dispute resolution forum set up by the Women and Child Welfare Department. In her complaint, she had alleged infringement of her right to liberty caused by her parents.

The woman said she wanted to marry Khan, who is her colleague. Ramya added that Khan’s mother had no objection to the marriage, but her own parents were not giving their consent.

After hearing her submission, the High Court said that the woman concerned, being a software engineer, is capable of making a decision about her life. It also directed the Mahila Dakshatha Samithi to release Ramya.

‘Love jihad’ row

The case comes amid a debate over “love jihad” and various Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled states promising to enact laws against it. “Love jihad” is a conspiracy theory used by right-wing groups who accuse Muslim men of using marriage as a lure to force Hindu women to convert to Islam.

Last week, the Uttar Pradesh Police registered their first case under a new ordinance to deal with religious conversions for the sake of marriage. It was filed against a Muslim man in the state’s Bareilly district.

Earlier this month, Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa had said that his government would take measures to end religious conversions in the name of “love jihad”.

The Madhya Pradesh government had on November 25 doubled the jail term for forced religious conversions for marriage from five years to 10 years in its draft bill against “love jihad”. The Haryana government on November 26 formed a three-member drafting committee to frame a law for the same.

The Allahabad High Court had last month struck down a previous order that had deemed religious conversions only for the sake of marriage unacceptable, saying that the decision was “not good in law”. A division bench of Justices Vivek Agarwal and Pankaj Naqvi noted that interference in a personal relationship would constitute a serious encroachment on the right to freedom of choice of two individuals.

In February, the Centre told the Lok Sabha that no “case of ‘love jihad’ has been reported by any of the central agencies”. Investigations by the National Investigation Agency, the Karnataka Criminal Investigation Department, the Uttar Pradesh Special Investigation Team and others have turned up no evidence for this alleged conspiracy. The National Commission for Women maintains no data about “love jihad” too.