Marrying by choice is an individual’s fundamental right: Karnataka HC

This ruling is significant as the Karnataka government is currently mulling a law to criminalise religious conversions "for the sake of love and marriage."
Hindu wedding representative image
Hindu wedding representative image

In a significant ruling, the Karnataka High Court ruled that it is the fundamental right of any adult in India to marry the person of his or her choice, irrespective of caste and religion, and that right cannot be encroached upon by anybody. This ruling comes even as multiple states in India have brought in or are currently mulling laws to discourage interfaith marriages, by citing increasing instances of “love jihad” to do the same. It must be noted that “love jihad” is a conspiracy propagated by right-wing extremists who claim that Muslim men deliberately marry Hindu women to convert them to Islam. However, there is no such term under Indian law.

The Karnataka High Court was hearing a habeas corpus plea filed by a software engineer, Wajeed, who had moved the court seeking the release of Ramya, alleging that she was being confined against her will by her parents who were opposed to their upcoming marriage. In an application, Ramya, also a software engineer, had submitted to the court that she is currently staying at Mahila Dakshatha Samithi in Vidyaranyapura after she had filed a complaint alleging the infringement of her right to liberty caused by her parents with respect to her marriage with the petitioner. She also submitted to the court that she has decided to marry the petitioner, who is her colleague, but that her parents had not consented to the marriage.

“It is well settled that a right of any major individual to marry the person of his/her choice is a fundamental right enshrined in the Constitution of India and the said liberty relating to the personal relationships of two individuals cannot be encroached by anybody irrespective of caste or religion,” the Karnataka High Court bench of Justices S Sujatha and Sachin Shankar Magadum ruled. The court added that Ramya is capable of making her own decisions and ordered that the Mahila Dakshatha Samithi release her immediately. 

The ruling assumes significance as even Karnataka is mulling a law to check alleged forced conversions in the state. Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa had said that the government will take strong measures to put an end to religious conversion “in the name of love and marriage.” Home Minister Basavaraj Bommai too had said the government was considering a law against religious conversion ‘for the sake of marriage,’ even as several BJP leaders had put forward similar demands.

Recently, Uttar Pradesh Governor Anandiben Patel gave assent to an ordinance against forcible or fraudulent religious conversions that provides for imprisonment up to 10 years and a maximum fine of Rs 50,000 under different categories. The promulgation of the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020, came four days after the Yogi Adityanath government had approved the draft of the legislation which also curbs religious conversions only for the sake of marriage.

The BJP-led government in Madhya Pradesh, too, is planning to introduce a new law to curb the increase in cases of so-called “love-jihad” in the state. The Shivraj Singh Chouhan government is all set to table the Madhya Pradesh Religious Freedom Bill, 2020 in the upcoming Assembly session. According to the proposed Act there will be a provision of punishment for up to five years for those indulging in or abetting forceful religious conversions.

Related Stories

No stories found.
The News Minute