The Supreme Court said on Thursday the National Investigation Agency (NIA) cannot probe the legitimacy of Hadiya Jahan’s marriage that was annulled by the Kerala high court last year, sparking a raging debate over personal freedom in India.
The bench headed by chief justice Dipak Misra said marriage has to be separated from criminal action or conspiracy, adding that adding that only Hadiya has the right “to decide on her choices”.
The SC made Hadiya a party in the case and asked her to file a response as it continued hearing the case of alleged forced conversion.
“She is an adult. She appeared before us and said she is married. What can the court do? We can’t get into the legitimacy of the person whom she has married. Legitimacy of marriage can be questioned only by her or the man,” the SC said on Tuesday.
The apex court said the NIA’s investigation into a “pattern” involving conversion to Islam and marriages in Kerala will have no bearing in deciding the aspects of the legitimacy of marriage of Hadiya and Shafin Jehan.
Hadiya, 24, was born Akhila Ashokan before she converted after her marriage. The HC had sent her back to her father’s house but the top court later freed Hadiya to continue her studies.
The woman’s father claims the marriage was forced and was a case of love jihad, a term right-wing groups use to allege an Islamist strategy of converting Hindu women through seduction, marriage or money.
Her father had sought custody of his daughter saying that efforts are underway to send her to Syria to join the international terror outfit, Islamic State. Shafin denies the allegations.