- Allahabad High Court’s big verdict in love Jihad case
- Parents of a girl filed a case against a Muslim man after their daughter converted to Islam in 2019
- “We do not see Priyanka Kharwar and Salamat Ansari as Hindu and Muslim,” says Allahabad High Court
Allahabad High Court has cancelled a case filed against a Muslim man by the parents of his wife who converted to Islam to marry him in 2019. The court observed, “Interference in a personal relationship would constitute a serious encroachment into the right to freedom of choice of the two individuals,” in a verdict which holds huge significance in the middle of a fiery debate over “love jihad”.
The two judge bench of the Allahabad High Court said, “We do not see Priyanka Kharwar and Salamat Ansari as Hindu and Muslim, rather as two grown-up individuals who – out of their own free will and choice – are living together peacefully and happily over a year. The Courts and the Constitutional Courts in particular are enjoined to uphold the life and liberty of an individual guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India”.
Salamat Ansari who likes in Kushinagar, Uttar Pradesh and Priyanka Kharwar married against the will of the wish of the girl’s parents in August of 2019. Shortly before the marriage, Priyanka converted to Islam and changed her name to “Alia”.
In the same month, Priyanka’s parents filed a First Information Report (FIR) against Salamat in which they accused him of crimes including “kidnapping” and “abduction to compel a marriage”. They also included the stringent POCSO Act (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act), claiming that their daughter was a minor when she married.
On the 11th of November, Allahabad High Court ruled on Salamat’s petition which requested that the FIR filed by Priyanka’s parents to be quashed.
In a 14 page order, the Allahabad High Court said, “The right to live with a person of his/her choice irrespective of religion professed by them, is intrinsic to right to life and personal liberty,” as it rejected the arguments put forward by the UP government as well as the woman’s parents.
The revolutionary judgement has come at a time when the BJP-ruled states like UP, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana have talked about bringing laws to stop “Love jihad”, a pejorative used by right-wing groups to target relationships between Muslim men and Hindu women, which, they say, is a ruse to forcibly convert the women.
Justices Vivek Agarwal and Pankaj Naqvi made strong observations on the two previous orders by different judges in the same court in similar cases.
One of them was a writ petition dated 2014 which was filed by five couples, seeking protection after interfaith marriages; the petition was dismissed. In another case, a single-judge bench in September refused to interfere in a petition by a couple as they sought protection three months after their marriage. The judge cited a Supreme Court order to say – “Religious conversion – just for the purpose of marriage – is not acceptable”.
The judges said, “None of these judgments dealt with the issue of life and liberty of two mature individuals in choosing a partner or their right to freedom of choice as to with whom they would like to live. We hold the judgments in Noor Jahan (2014) and Priyanshi (September 2020) as not laying good law.”
Challenging the FIR filed by Priyanka’s parents, Salamat and Priyanka alleged that it was “prompted by malice and mischief only with a view to bring an end to marital ties, and that no offences are made out.”
Responding to this, the advocates representing the UP Government and the parents argued that religious conversion to marry is banned and that “the marriage has no sanctity in law, so this court should not exercise its extraordinary jurisdiction in favour of such a couple.”
After it was established that Priyanka was an adult at the time of the marriage, the two-judge bench of the Allahabad High Court made a host of observations and upheld “life and liberty”.
Invoking the Constitution of India, the judges observed, “We fail to understand that if the law permits two persons even of the same sex to live together peacefully then neither any individual nor a family nor even state can have objection to relationship of two major individuals who out of their own free will are living together.”
The added, “The decision of an individual who is of the age of majority, to live with an individual of his/her choice is strictly a right of an individual and when this right is infringed it would constitute breach of his/her fundamental right to life and personal liberty as it includes right to freedom of choice, to choose a partner and right to live with dignity as enshrined in Article 21 of the Constitution of India.”
The Allahabad High Court also clarified that it id not commenting on the “the validity of alleged marriage/ conversion,” however, is cancelling the case as no offences were proved and “two grown up individuals are before us, living together for over a year of their own free will and choice.”