The Court also said that conversion and re-conversion centres that convert people by force should be shut down as they are unconstitutional.

Love has no barriers Kerala HC says Hindu-Muslim couple have right to live together
news Inter-Religious Marriage Thursday, October 19, 2017 - 17:43

Even as a controversial debate has been growing in Kerala on the subject of “love jihad”, the Kerala High Court hit out at religious conversion and re-conversion centres in the state.

The High Court said that conversion and re-conversion centres that convert people by force should be closed down as they are unconstitutional. It also observed that inter-faith marriages should not be considered harmful, and are to be encouraged.

The judgement by Justices V Chitambaresh and Sathish Ninan borrowed lines from the American poet Maya Angelou to eloquently make the point that artificial barriers to love cannot stand. It said, “Love recognises no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.”

The Court delivered this judgement while hearing the habeas corpus petition filed by a Muslim man from Kannur named Anees. Anees had approached the court after his wife Sruti Meledath was allegedly illegally confined by the Siva Sakthi Yoga Vidya Kendram in an attempt to convince her to give up her marriage to Anees. Anees and Sruthi had both studied Physics at the Pilathara Co-operative Arts and Science college in Kannur, and had fallen in love and got married.

Recently, Sruthi had testified in court that she had been tortured by counsellors at the Yoga Centre.

While the court had earlier allowed Sruthi to return to Anees’s home, it delivered its final judgement in the case on Thursday.

“Sruthi is a postgraduate, matured and has discovered her life partner in Anees and she cannot be detained against her wishes, either at her parental home or in the yoga kendra. Sruti is ordered to be set free and it is up to the couple to decide their future course of action without any interference from her parents,” the court said.

The court condemned in strong terms all instances of violence against inter-faith couples. “Such acts of violence or harassment are wholly illegal and those who commit them should be severely punished. This is a free democratic country and once a person becomes a major, he or she can marry whoever he/she likes,” the court said.

The HC praised Sruthi for standing by her convictions. “We applaud the extraordinary courage shown by Sruthi to live up to her conviction and decry the attempt of her parents to deflect the course of justice by misleading litigations,” the judgement said.

The judgement also said that if the parents of the boy or girl don’t like the marriage, the maximum they could do is to cut off all social relations with the son or daughter but it doesn’t give them the right to resort to violence.

It warned people against giving a communal colour to every case of inter-faith marriage. “We caution that every case of inter-religious marriage shall not be portrayed on a religious canvass and create fissures in the communal harmony otherwise existing in the God's own country – Kerala,” it said.

The High Court also dismissed the plea of a Christian helpline – which was set up with the support of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP)-affiliated Hindu helpline working to prevent ‘Love Jihad’ – to be made part of the case involving the Siva Sakthi Yoga Vidya Kendram.

Interestingly, the Kerala HC had recently come under criticism from various media outlets and commentators when it had annulled the marriage of Hadiya (originally Akhila), a Hindu woman who had converted to Islam and then married a Muslim man named Shafeen Jahan. The Kerala HC had annulled the marriage on the suspicion that it was part of an effort to convert Hadiya to Islam and recruit her into terrorist activity. Commentators had argued that the court had ignored the fundamental freedom of choice of an adult woman in the process.  

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