Observing that opposing an adult’s right to choose the spouse of their choice over the caste differences is a violation of fundamental rights, Himachal Pradesh High Court stated a girl is neither a cattle nor a non-living thing, but a living independent soul having the basic rights including the right to choose a spouse of her choice.
The bench comprising Justice Vivek Singh Thakur stated that suppressing or oppressing freedom of an individual, that too which is contrary not only to his/her spiritual and religious rights but also constitutional rights, is to be deprecated.
“We are living in a State governed by the Constitution and discrimination on the basis of caste by denying of right to choose spouse, is in violation of Fundamental Rights guaranteed under the Constitution of India,” the court said.
The High Court bench made the observations while hearing a petition filed by Sanjeev Kumar for the custody of his partner, Komal Parmar. He claimed that Komal has been detained by her family members against her will to prevent the solemnization of marriage.
The petitioner submitted that the family members of Komal were against the marriage and were threatening him and his family as they belong to a lower caste and Komal belongs to an upper caste.
After registering their marriage on February 1, the two had decided to live together and got shelter in Palampur. They were compelled by Komal’s family to come home after which they detained her. Later, with the directions of the court, Komal was transferred to Nari Niketan.
As per the report submitted by police, Komal’s father had produced an OPD slip on February 3, 2021, written by a Mental Health Specialist. He also stated that his daughter has not married anyone and was not in a condition to make a statement.
The family members of Komal refuted the claims that she was under illegal detention and stated, “There have been changes in social and moral values and our society is recognizing freedom of every citizen, but even then such liberties cannot be stretched beyond limits nor can such freedom be made a weapon to destroy our fundamental values and social establishments like families.”
However, Komal has denied all the submissions made by her family about her mental health and stated that her family members are opposing the marriage due to the caste differences.
“Ms. Komal has refuted the allegations of her ill mental health with further submission that she was slapped brutally on 2.2.2021 at Jawalaji and thereafter she was beaten and administered some injection and forcibly taken to Mental Health Specialist on 3.2.2021 and 10.2.2021. She has further stated that she is not having any mental health problem and that she is a student and has appeared in BBA Final Year Examination a few months ago,” the court said.
The court noted that the existence of God is not only in living creatures but is also in non-living things and, thus, no one is to be discriminated on account of sex, caste, creed, race, color, or financial status.
The court gave several examples behind supporting a woman’s right to choose the spouse of her choice. “To my little knowledge, oldest example of marrying a person of choice is marriage of Sati with Lord Shiva, which was solemnized in defiance and against wishes of her father King Daksha Prajapati. Another more than 5000 years old example of choosing the spouse according to choice of the girl is of Rukamani and Lord Krishna,” the court said.
The court further added that unlike ancient western thought, wherein a female was supposed to be created by God from the rib of a man for enjoyment of man, in India, a female was always considered not only equal but on a higher pedestal than male since Vedic Era.
“It is to be remembered that a girl is not a cattle or non-living thing but a living independent soul having rights, like others, and, on attaining the age of discretion, to exercise her discretion according to her wishes,” the judgment said.
The bench stated that leaving apart the history and values of Indian society, we all are living in a country governed by constitutional mandate and ‘Rule of Law’ is to prevail in all eventualities.
It was also emphasized that caste discrimination is a blatant attack on the fundamental rights entitled under Indian constitution.
“Komal Parmar is a grown-up girl of 21 years of age having no infirmity or incapacity to understand each and every aspect of life and to take decision and she has a right to exercise her discretion to choose a spouse and to decide the place of her residence. Ms Komal Parmar is major, capable of taking her own decisions and is entitled to the right recognized by the Constitution to lead her life exactly as she pleases,” the court observed.
The court has directed the local authorities to ensure the safety of the lives and property of Sanjeev Kumar. The High Court also ruled that Komal is free to choose the spouse of her choice.