The Calcutta High Court on Monday, 21 December made a judgment reaffirming that the courts cannot interfere if an adult woman marries a partner of her choice and chooses willingly to convert her religion.
The HC bench, consisting Justices Sanjib Banerjee and Arijit Banerjee, heard a plea by a petitioner who alleged that his 19-year-old daughter, Pallabi Sarkar, now known as Ayesha Khatun, had gone missing around 15 September and when traced had changed her religion and married Asmaul Shaikh.
“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,” observed the HC bench as reported by Bar and Bench.
Background Of The Case
According to a 7 December report by Murutia Police Station, Ayesha Khatun married Asmaul Shaikh and the report included a statement she had made before a Judicial Magistrate in Tehatta, West Bengal that she was in a relationship with Shaikh and had willingly married him, reported Live Law.
Previously, the petitioner had questioned the credibility of the statement, alleging there was coercion and he was not allowed to meet his daughter in court on 16 September when her statement was produced under Section 164 CrPc.
The woman was asked to record a second statement before the Additional District Judge, Tehatta indicating there was no external influence to her decision, but this did not remove the father’s ‘suspicions’.
What The Court Said
The court remarked, "Despite a clear and clean report being furnished, the father harbours some suspicion,” reported Bar and Bench.
Reiterating that the courts cannot interfere, the HC on Monday ordered Ayesha Khatun to meet with Saiba Bapuli, the Additional Public Prosecutor privately, without anyone else present on 23 December, 10.30 am and has directed the prosecutor to file a report before the next hearing on 24 December, reported Live Law.
‘Love Jihad’ Law
The Uttar Pradesh Governor, Anandiben Patel on Saturday, 28 November, promulgated the controversial UP Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance 2020, that ostensibly deals with ‘unlawful conversions’ to tackle what several states have called ‘love jihad’.
The Uttar Pradesh Cabinet had cleared the ordinance on 24 November.
The ordinance had proposed for a jail term of 1-5 years with a Rs 15,000 penalty for forceful religious conversion. For conversions of minors and women of SC/SC community, there will be jail term of 3-10 years with Rs 25,000 penalty.
The Allahabad High Court on Friday, 18 December issued notices to the Uttar Pradesh government on a batch of writ petitions challenging the recently passed law.
(With inputs from Bar and Bench and Live Law)