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Kerala ‘love jehad’: SC to hear Akhila in open court on Nov 27

| | New Delhi/Kochi
Kerala ‘love jehad’: SC to hear  Akhila in open court on Nov 27

In another twist to Kerala’s alleged love jehad case, the Supreme Court on Monday directed that a woman who converted to Islam before marrying a Muslim man be produced before it on November 27 even as it observed that the free consent of a major to marriage has to be ascertained.

Denying that his daughter was under house arrest, woman’s father KM Asokan said on Monday that Akhila, alias Hadia (25), who had embraced Islam two years ago and married a Muslim youth, will be presented before the Supreme Court as per its order.

“I was a soldier. I respect the legal system and judiciary. I will produce my daughter before the Supreme Court as per its order,” Asokan told the media at his native place TV Puram near Vaikom in Kottayam district. “I will abide by whatever decision the court takes,” he said.

The direction by the apex court for producing the woman for an interaction in an open court came amid an assertion by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) that an indoctrinated person may be incapable of giving free consent to marriage.

The NIA referred to the term of “psychological kidnapping” and said that there is a well-oiled machinery working in Kerala and they are indulging in the indoctrination and radicalisation of society where as many as 89 similar cases have been reported.

“Having heard learned counsel for the parties, we are inclined to modify the order of August 16 and accordingly direct the presence of the daughter of the first respondent at 3.00 pm on November 27. We may further add that this court shall speak to her not in camera but in open court,” a Bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud said.

At the outset, the Bench posed a pointed query to Additional Solicitor General Maninder Singh, appearing for the NIA, whether the marriage be annulled by the High Court in a habeas corpus petition and can the parents be given the custody of a major woman, who is 24 years of age.

“We have to find out as to where she intended to stay and as far as, marriage is concerned it is a personal thing,” the bench said, adding that the free consent of a major has to be ascertained. 

The Additional Solicitor General submitted that this was a case in which the woman has been indoctrinated and hence the court can invoke parental authority even if she was a major.

“Indoctrination is an exception to free consent. It is recognised even internationally. This girl has been indoctrinated and manipulated. In such cases the court can invoke parental authority,” the law officer said.

“The free consent can be no consent if it was proved that the person in question was ‘indoctrinated’”, he said, adding that the parental authority has been recognised by the US courts and it has been accepted by the Madras and the Kerala High Courts.

Senior Advocate Shyam Divan, appearing for the father of the woman, submitted that there was a well-oiled organisational apparatus operating for carrying out such activities.

The lawyer claimed said that Shafin Jahan, the alleged husband of the woman, was a radicalised man and he has had links with the person who used to recruit for ISIS.

“There are exchanges with that person on Facebook and Whatsapp. Kerala has a huge contingent of people who have joined ISIS. This is not a problem in Kerala but in other jurisdictions as well,” he said.

“It (Kerala High Court) was not merely exercising jurisdiction under Article 226 but the frame of the petition was that there is an organisational apparatus operating. It consists of PFI and such organisations. They have students, preachers, psychologists etc and they radicalise impressionable minds. The question is do courts respond to such radicalisation or do they remain silent?” Divan said.

A single case of this nature cannot “destroy the essentiality” of law, the Bench observed.

Akhila had converted to Islam in 2015 and assumed the name of Hadia when she was a student of homeopathy medicine in Tamil Nadu and married Shaffin Jahan on December 19, 2016. The Kerala High Court had through an order, described by many as extraordinary, annulled this marriage on May 25 last and entrusted her custody to her father. 



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