In what could possibly change the course of the controversial Hadiya case, the Supreme Court on Monday said that it wants to hear the 25-year-old Muslim convert's side of the story.
The bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra directed the Kerala state government to produce Hadiya (Akhila before her conversion) before the court on November 27 at 3pm.
Asking the government to produce Hadiya in court, the bench said: "It is our obligation to ask her choice."
According to reports, the SC will first hear Hadiya's side, before it hears the arguments of Hadiya's father Ashokan and the National Investigation Agency (NIA), which conducted a probe into the woman’s conversion to Islam and her subsequent marriage to Shafin Jahan. The case will be heard in open court.
The SC was hearing a Special Leave Petition against the Kerala High Court's decision to annul Hadiya's marriage to Shafin and return Hadiya to her parents' custody.
Although the SC had indicated during previous hearings that it will listen to Hadiya, the court directing the government to produce her in person is a big win for activists protesting against the rights violations she has allegedly been subjected to.
The SC said that the consent of the woman is the most important aspect in a habeas corpus matter.
"Is there a law prohibiting a woman from marrying a criminal," the CJI asked the Additional Solicitor General (ASG).
This was after Hadiya's father alleged in a fresh application that Shafin had links with terrorist organisations. Live Law reports that, in his application seeking permission to file additional documents, Ashokan alleged that Shafin is friends with one Mansi Buraaq, who has been charge-sheeted by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) for having terrorist links.
Meanwhile, the NIA argued that Hadiya's was not an isolated case and that she has been "psychologically kidnapped." However, the court dismissed this argument, stating, “That’s not part of habeas corpus jurisprudence as of now.”
The court also directed the Kerala government to continue giving protection to Hadiya.
Hadiya's case began in early 2016. After Hadiya left home and converted to Islam in January last year, Ashokan filed two habeas corpus petitions in the Kerala High Court in January and August. The court had rejected the first petition and allowed Hadiya the freedom to choose her own religion. While the HC was hearing the second petition, on December 19, Hadiya got married to Shafin. The court took exception to the sudden marriage, and raised doubts about its genuineness.
On May 24 this year, the court annulled the marriage and returned Hadiya to her parents’ custody, asking the Kerala police to provide them with protection. When Shafin Jahan approached the Supreme Court with a Special Leave Petition, the SC ordered a probe by the National Investigative Agency into the issue.
Since Hadiya’s return to her home there have been a number of allegations raised about her situation. Activists have alleged that she is being confined against her will, and that Hadiya has told Shafin and others that she is being beaten and harassed at home. A recent video released by activist Rahul Eashwar even showed Hadiya saying that her father kicked her and beat her and that she feared for her life.