The Kerala High Court has asked a woman in an interfaith relationship to appear before the court in a habeas corpus petition filed by the woman’s father.
Joisna Mary Joseph, a Christian woman in Kerala who married a Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI) leader Shejin by exchanging garlands, has been asked to appear before a division bench of the Kerala High Court on 19 April.
A habeas corpus is a type of petition seeking the appearance of a particular person before the court.
Shejin, who is a local leader of the DYFI, the youth wing of the CPI(M) in Kozhikode, exchanged garlands with Joisna on 9 April. Shejin is a Muslim and Joisna is a Christian.
Joisna had arrived from Saudi Arabia a few weeks before, for her engagement with another man. However, she left home and got together with Shejin.
The couple filed their papers to register their wedding under the Special Marriage Act (SMA) on 12 April; the SMA has a waiting period of 30 days before the wedding can be registered.
When Joisna eloped with Shejin, her parents filed a missing person complaint, alleging Shejin forced her to get married to him. However, Joisna has been maintaining that she has married Shejin out of her own will.
Addressing reporters in Alappuzha, where the couple is presently staying, Joisna said she has all the freedom to stick to her religion till her death.
Joisna's father had also moved the High Court seeking an independent probe into his daughter’s wedding and filed a habeas corpus petition saying that the police have failed in bringing her to him.
Shejin told TNM that the direction to appear before the High Court division bench came as the habeas corpus was filed before their appearance at the lower court.
A few days ago, on 12 April, the couple appeared before a court in Thamarassery, which allowed the two to live together. Shejin had then told Asianet News that they appeared in court as their relationship should not create any problems.
Their relationship has attracted media attention ever since a CPI(M) leader cited their relationship to claim “love jihad” exists in the state.
“Love-jihad” is a conspiracy theory spread by right-wing extremists who claim that Muslim men deliberately marry Hindu women to convert them to Islam. In Kerala, fundamentalist Christians have also adopted the 'love jihad' narrative when it comes to interfaith Muslim-Christian relationships.
CPI(M) leader George M Thomas in Kozhikode had said that the party will take action against Shejin for “disrupting communal harmony” between Muslims and Christians.
"If they were in love, Shejin should have informed the party, but he did not do so and eloped with her, which might disturb the communal harmony," he had said.
The DYFI, however, said that secular marriages will be encouraged and that love jihad is a “made-up lie.” George then retracted his statement, and said that he made the initial remarks “by mistake.”
(Published in arrangement with The News Minute.)