SHAFIN JAHAN V. ASOKAN K M: FREEDOM OF CHOICE JUDGEMENT

Facts of the Case

A petition was filed by the father of Hadiya, who is a student of homoeopathy that she was missing. He filed a writ of habeas corpus in the High Court of Kerala that she was detained and required her presence in court. Hadiya gave her presence in the court and the new developments occurred. The father of Hadiya said that since she was unmarried and because of this reason, the guardianship or charge over her is with her parents due to the customs and religions. Hadiya changed her religion to Islam and her father objected to it. She, then, married the appellant, Shafin Jahan who wanted her to go outside India with him. Her father said that he knew nothing about Shafin, that he is forcing his daughter on this matter. The Kerala High Court said that the parents of Hadiya had authority over her and directed the custody to them and held that the marriage with the consent of the parents is a good one and thus, annulled the marriage between Hadiya and Shafin. Distressed by the decision, Shafin filed a case in the Supreme Court under special leave petition where the Kerala court declared his marriage as invalid and the judgement being against the law, taking away their right.

Reasoning

  • Dipak Misra, CJI and A. M. Khanwilkar, J.

CJI purported to explain that High Court of Kerala was at fault to declare women as “weak” and not having authority in themselves and their well being. The court said that Hadiya is a major and individual who has to right to practice any religion that she has faith or belief in. she is not to be governed by the wishes of her parents as being an adult she can make choices for herself. The patriarchal notion of treating women as subordinate to men and men having the authority and power over women is the wrong notion. Women should be given equal treatment and behaviour in law as well as everywhere. CJI said that any person has a prerogative protected under Constitution of India to change their religion to the one they believe in.  He said that it is the right of Hadiya as a human right principle where she has the freedom in choice. CJI also highlighted the writ of habeas corpus which is issued in cases of detention of a person which is against the law and thus, involves the question civil procedure and not criminal in nature. He also said that the Kerala High Court used the doctrine of parens patriae which is inaccurately used and is applied for in the cases of a careless parent or guardian which was not the case in present. The court applies this principle only in special circumstances or situations. The uniqueness of a person is embedded in his choices and these are the choices that cannot be taken away from anyone in any circumstance.

  • Y. Chanderchud, J.
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Justice Chanderchud gave his opinion that there is complete and utter injustice by the judgement of Kerala High Court where on the hearing of the habeas corpus writ petition, they exceeded their power to declare the marriage as null. This was against the very nature of principle of rule of law and natural justice where this writ involving for the detention and listening of the issue involving that question only, took in itself an issue not put forward in the court of the marriage Hadiya and completely making the marriage non-existent in the eyes of court. He highlighted that court has neither jurisdiction nor authority to declare and discuss on the issue of marriage of Hadiya. The court cannot tell her way of life ought to be. She has authority over the possible course action she takes in her life. He further said that no one has right to judge or to have a say in who she chooses as her spouse and no person can protest on it. She has freedom over the way she makes decisions in her life.

Disposition

The Supreme Court looking at complete facts and all the instances of the case gave the decision the decision of the high court of Kerala was not correct. Women are given inferior treatment of thinking of them having no originality or individuality of their own and the judgement of the Kerala court saying she has no authority over her own life to choose the person she chooses to marry or wants to marry is against the very nature constitutionality of the law. Thus, the Supreme Court held that the marriage between Hadiya and appellant who filed the special leave petition was not invalid and it was also not in the competence of the Kerala court to decide on that matter as the issue never arose in the original petition before it and thus, it cannot gave its opinion or jurisdiction on that matter. The marriage will subsist and is valid in the eyes of court and law and cannot be obstructed.

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Critical Analysis

The judgement of Kerala High Court was in fact highly unjustified and that women are not the property of men. Hadiya, having reached the age of majority has complete right over her life and thus, cannot be treated as having no authority. The decision was in fact arbitrary and without any jurisdiction. The Supreme Court of India was correct in deciding that every person has the right to practice and profess any religion they want. Along with that, the judgement by High  Court of Kerala which involved only the question of the writ petition presented to it under Article 226 of the Constitution of India can decided on that issue only and they have no authority to decide on the validity of someone’s marriage or someone’s choosing of life partner a particular person. Under Article 21 of the Constitution, it is enshrined that there is freedom to choose the way of life they want to life and freedom and right in that choice. Thus, the Supreme Court, in present instance deciding in favour of Hadiya was truly the right decision because of fallacy of the inferior court.

Conclusion

In the end, it can definitely be said that to deprive anyone of their freedom of practice to any religion is the infringement of their inherent and constitutionally provided fundamental right. The more important fact is that all the people in the country have the right to the way of living their life the way they want and precede with that with the decisions that they desire and no one can object to that. It is fundamentally guaranteed.

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Author: Arushi Anand,
Vivekananda Institute of Professional Studies, 4th Year

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