Allahabad High Court on Tuesday cancelled a case filed against a muslim man by the parents of his wife, who had converted to Islam last year to marry him. The court while delivering the verdict said, “Interference in a personal relationship would constitute a serious encroachment into the right to freedom of choice of the two individuals,” amidst the on-going debate over ‘love-jihad.’
Salamat Ansari, a resident of Uttar Pradesh’s Kushinagar, had married Priyanka Kharwar, whose parents were against the union in August 2019. Priyanka had converted to Islam and changed her name to ‘Alia’ before the wedding.
Priyanka’s parents in August last year filed a First Information Report(FIR) against Salamat and accused him of ‘kidnapping’ and ‘abduction to compel a marriage’. They also included the stringent POCSO Act (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act), and claimed that their daughter was a minor when she married.
A three-judge bench of Justices Vivek Agarwal and Pankaj Naqvi 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 court further added: “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,”
The decision by the two-judge bench was delivered on November 11, in which the Allahabad HC ruled on Salamat’s petition requesting that the FIR be cancelled.
In the 14 page-order the court said, “To disregard the choice of a person who is of the age of majority would not only be antithetic to the freedom of choice of a grown up individual but would also be a threat to the concept of unity in diversity,”
“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,” the High Court said
The judgement comes at a time when BJP ruled states like UP, Madhya Pradesh have been talking about bringing laws to stop ‘love-jihad’ a term used by right-wing Hindu activists to describe relationships between Hindu women and Muslim men which they say that the women are forcibly converted.
The judgement contradicts two previous judgements in similar cases where the court ruled saying that religious conversion only for the sake of marriage was not valid under law. One was a writ petition in 2014 filed by five couples who were seeking protection after interfaith marriages which was dismissed. The other one was in September 2020, in which a single-judge bench refused to interfere in a petition by a couple as they sought protection three months after their marriage.
Justices Vivek Agarwal and Pankaj Naqvi 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,”
In October, UP CM Yogi Adityanath announced that his government was planning a law to regulate ‘love jihad.’