April 10, 2018
The Three-Judge Bench of the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra on Monday rendered a detailed judgment in Hadiya case (Shafin Jahan v. Union of India). On March 8, the Supreme Court had dismissed Kerala High Court’s order, whereby the High Court had annulled the marriage between Hadiya and Shafin Jahan (read here).
Some remarkable observations made by the Apex Court in the case are enumerated below:
Invoking parens patriae jurisdiction– In the judgment, the Apex Court has elucidated on the exercise of Parens Patriae jurisdiction and stated that Constitutional Courts in this country exercise parens patiae jurisdiction in matters of child custody treating the welfare of the child as the paramount concern. That there are situations when the Court can invoke the parens patriae principle and the same is required to be invoked only in exceptional circumstances.
The courts cannot in every and any case invoke the Parens Patriae doctrine. The said doctrine has to be invoked only in exceptional cases where the parties before it are either mentally incompetent or have not come of age and it is proved to the satisfaction of the Court that the said parties have either no parent/legal guardian or have an abusive or negligent parent/ legal guardian.
Freedom of Choice of Faith– In the context of Hadiya converting to Islam after marrying Shafin Jahan, the Apex Court observed that expression of choice in accord with law is acceptance of individual identity and that curtailment of that expression and ultimate action emanating therefrom on the conceptual structuralism of obeisance to the societal will destroy the individualistic entity of a person.
The social values and morals have their space but they are not above the constitutionally guaranteed freedom. Deprivation of that freedom which is ingrained in choice on the plea of faith is impermissible. Faith of a person is intrinsic to his/her meaningful existence. To have the freedom of faith is essential to his/her autonomy; and it strengthens the core norms of the Constitution.
That a father’s concern to protect the interest of his daughter cannot be allowed to curtail the fundamental rights of his daughter who out of her own volition, married the appellant.
The Apex Court as stated earlier, remarked that the investigation by the NIA in respect of any matter of criminality would continue in accordance with law and should not encroach upon the marital status of Hadiya and Shafin Jahan.
Brief background of Hadiya’s case
Originally known as Akhila Ashokan, Hadiya is daughter of ex-serviceman KM Ashokan. Akhila embraced Islam and took the name Hadiya without informing her parents. Aggrieved by the conversion, Hadiya’s parents lodged a complaint and habeas corpus petition in January, 2016 alleging it to be a matter of Love Jihad, wherein Muslim men and boys target non- Muslim girls to embrace Islam. Thereafter, Hadiya married Shefin Jahan last December. Subsequently, Hadiya’s father filed another petition. In May this year High Court nullified Hadiya’s marriage and also directed that she should not interact with outsiders as she was a weak girl vulnerable to exploitation.
Thereafter Hadiya’s husband moved the Supreme Court against High Court’s order nullifying the marriage. The Supreme Court in the case prima facie opined that the High Court had no authority to nullify the marriage and ditected the National Investigation Authority (NIA) to probe in the matter and report if there was any wider angle in the case.