Shafin Jahan vs Asokan K.M.
(Hadiya Marriage Case) – A Summary by Zeenia Nagpal
Date of Judgement: 8 March 2018
Citation: Criminal Appeal No. 366 OF 2018
3-Judge Bench: Justice Dipak Misra and Justice AM Khanwilkar and Justice Dr. DY Chandrachud
Appellant: Shafin Jahan
Respondent(s): Asokan K.M. and Ors.
Facts of the case:
- Hadiya, also known as Akhila Asokan is the only child of Mr. Asokan. While pursuing her degree in Homeopathic Medicine, she initially resided in the college hostel and later she rented a house and started staying there along with five other students. Jaseena and Faseena daughters of Aboobacker were among the above stated five students.
- After receiving the information from one of Hadiya’s friends, that Hadiya went to college wearing ‘pardah’. Hadiya was informed about her father’s illness and after listening to this she left Salem. But instead, she went to Aboobacker’s house, and later Mr. Asokan was informed that Hadiya escaped his house too and ran somewhere else.
- This was the first time when Mr. Asokan filed the first Writ Petition of Habeas Corpus before the Division Bench of the High Court of Kerala. Wherein, the High Court persuaded Hadiya to go along with her father but she did not agree. And in the final order, the bench stated that they were convinced that she was not under any illegal confinement.
- Second Writ Petition was filed alleging that his daughter was likely to be transported out of the country. During the hearing, the Court is notified of her wedding with Shafin Jahan.
- Reacting to this incident, the Bench expressed their absolute dissatisfaction with how the marriage was conducted. Also, the secrecy surrounding the transaction and the hurried manner in which such exercise was performed looked suspicious.
- Considering all the facts, the High Court in its order opined that a girl aged 24 years is weak and vulnerable and capable of being exploited in many ways and by exercising parens patriae jurisdiction gave the custody of Hadiya to her parents. Also, the High Court via this Order, declared the alleged marriage null and void.
- Displeased by the order of High Court, Shafin Jahan through a special leave petition appealed to the Supreme Court.
- Whether the woman who has attained the age of majority has to take prior approval of the parents to enter into a marital relationship?
- Whether the High Court had the power to exercise parens patriae jurisdiction and deciding matters which is not the ratio decidendi in the case?
Holding and Reasoning:
- First, the Supreme Court restates the law on the writ of habeas corpus. The Court mentioned, Kanu Sanyal v. District Magistrate, Darjeeling, and Others, wherein, the constitutional bench stated, that the writ is a means of testing the legality of the detention. And in another case, Ranjit Singh v. the State of Pepsu (now Punjab), the Bench quoted Lord Wright who, in Greene’s case, had stated, “The incalculable value of habeas corpus is that it enables the immediate determination of the right to the applicant’s freedom.” Thus, highlighting the pivotal purpose of the said writ i.e. to see that no one is deprived of his/her liberty without the sanction of law.
- Next, the Supreme Court notices the impugned judgment of the High Court of Kerala and stated that it was the adamantine attitude of the father, possibly impelled by obsessive parental love, compelled him to knock at the doors of the High Court. And the High Court while giving the erroneous judgment, forgot that neither the parental love nor concern can be allowed to take away the right of choice of an adult in choosing a man to whom she gets married. Instead, the High Court should have directed that she was free to go wherever she wishes to.
- Later, the Supreme Court pointed out the fallacious approach of the High Court. The future activity, if any, (such as in this case, thinking Hadiya will be moved out of the country) is required to be governed and controlled by the State as per the law. The apprehension was not within the arena of jurisdiction before the court.
- Another error which the present Court notices are that of the situation where the High Court has invoked parens patriae doctrine. The Supreme Court believes that the power of exercising parens patriae doctrine comes with the limitation and should only be invoked in exceptional cases. The Court, after having interacted with Hadiya, was of the view that such doctrine cannot be invoked in this case as there was nothing to suggest that she is a vulnerable adult or suffers from any kind of mental incapacity. The court was convinced that Hadiya was categorical in her submissions and unequivocal in the expression of her choice.
- Analyzing further, the Court stated that social values and morals have their own significance but none of it is above the freedom guaranteed under the Supreme Law of the Land. It also stated, “Choosing a faith is the substratum of individuality and sans it, the right of choice becomes a shadow. It has to be remembered that the realization of a right is more important than the conferment of the right.” And non-acceptance to such right (in the present case, Hadiya’s right) would simply mean creating discomfort to the constitutional right by the Courts themselves, who are entrusted to guard the fundamental rights of the citizens.
- Through this, the court allowed the appeal while setting aside the impugned order of the Kerala High Court.