On 21st December, the Calcutta High Court reaffirmed that courts cannot interfere if an adult woman marries and converts to another religion out of her own free will.
The bench comprising of Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Arijit Banerjee made the above observations while hearing a plea by a father who sought to trace his ‘missing’ 19-year-old daughter Hindu woman.
After the woman was traced, she was found to have married a Muslim man and also converted to Islam. As per the report of the officer-in-charge of Murutia Police Station, the petitioner’s daughter, Pallabi Sarkar had married one Asmaul Shaikh. The report also contained a copy of the statement rendered by Pallabi on 16th September 2020 before the Judicial Magistrate, Tehatta under Section 164 of the Code of Criminal procedure, wherein she mentioned that she had a relationship with Asmaul and was willingly living with Asmaul.
However, the petitioner claimed that when he visited the court of the Judicial Magistrate on the day that his daughter’s statement was recorded, he was not allowed to meet his daughter or talk to her. Significantly, the petitioner claimed that his daughter had made a statement against her wishes.
Subsequently, the court ordered that Pallabi be brought before the senior-most Additional District Judge stationed in Tehatta and that the petitioner should also be present before the Judge. Further, the court ordered that the petitioner and his daughter be allowed to interact in the presence of the concerned Additional District Judge and to ensure that there is no pressure which is brought to bear on Pallabi at the time of such interaction.
On the other hand, while citing it to be a ‘clean and clear report’, the court asserted that “She is 19 years old. She has married a person of her choice and she apparently does not want to return to her paternal home. If an adult marries as per her choice and decides to convert and not return to her paternal house, there can be no interference in the matter.”
Further, the bench referred to the judgment of Shakti Vahini vs. UOI & others, wherein the Supreme Court of India had in 2018 held that “when two adults marry out of their volition, they choose their path; they consummate their relationship; they feel that it is their goal and they have the right to do so.”
“Any kind of torture or torment or ill-treatment in the name of honor that tantamount to atrophy of choice of an individual relating to love and marriage by any assembly, whatsoever nomenclature it assumes, is illegal and cannot be allowed a moment of existence,” asserted the Court.