Want to Marry as per Your Choice, Irrespective of Religion? What Indian Laws Say

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Kerala has the highest literacy rate in India. Yet when a girl decided to convert to another religion and marry by her own choice, it became a matter of debate for the entire nation.

In the bizarre case of Hadiya, she converted to Islam and got married to a Muslim man. On 24th May 2017, the Kerala High Court annulled the marriage of Hadiya (previously known as Akhila) and Shafin Jahan.

Her father has filed a petition before Kerala High Court as he claimed that she was allegedly coerced into adopting Islam as her religion and might be trafficked to Syria.

The Kerala High Court, after admitting the petition filed by her father, granted Hadiya’s custody to her parents. Absurdly, while rendering this order, Kerala High Court observed that “we are not satisfied that it is safe to let Akhila free to decide what she wants in her life.”

Choice of religion is a personal choice of a person. If the court does not allow a person to freely choose his religion, it amounts to a violation of his or her fundamental right as guaranteed under the Constitution of India.

At 18, a woman in India can vote, marry, have a child, take up a job and drive. Then why there is so much of fuss when a Hindu decided to convert to Islam. Why is the right to freedom of religion veiled under the garb of ‘love jihad’. Denying Hadiya her right mocks the notion of adulthood.

On Monday, India’s top court finally heard Hadiya. She told a three-judge bench of Supreme Court that she wants her freedom and wanted to pursue medicine. She does not wish to stay with her father, instead wants to stay with her husband.

India has a diverse culture, and religion and caste are an integral part of our society. Society still frowns on inter-caste marriages. India still largely follows the ancient and rigid structure of the caste system.

People marrying outside their caste is considered outrageous. India has seen a huge spike in honour killings recently.

Picture for representation only. Source: Pixabay

As per the latest crime data by the National Crime Record Bureau Statistics, honour killing in India has grown more than 796% from 2014 to 2015.

If a person chooses to marry outside his religion he or she can either convert to that religion or can marry under Special Marriage Act, 1954.

To address the issue of inter-caste marriage, the Parliament enacted the Special Marriage Act. This legislation provides for a special form of marriage for people of India, irrespective of the religion they follow. The Special Marriage Act covers marriages among Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists. For people of inter-religion marrying the most viable option is to undergo court marriage.

For a marriage to be solemnized under Special Marriage Act –

Picture for representation only. Source: Pixabay

  • The bridegroom should be at least 21 years old and bride must be at least 18 years of age.
  • Both the people intending to marry should be unmarried and should not have any living spouse at that time.
  • At the time of marriage, the parties should be sane and be able to make decisions for themselves.
  • They should not be related through blood, i.e. should not fall within those defined as ‘prohibited relationships’.

The right to marry in India is part of the right to life as given under Constitution of India. Girls under the age of 18 and boys under the age of 21 cannot marry legally in India. They can freely choose their spouse irrespective of the religion or any other ground. The Delhi High court, in one judgment, has said that choosing one spouse is a fundamental right. Both men and women have right to enter into marriage and freely choose a partner of their choice.

The Constitution guarantees us freedom of religion – which includes right to convert to any religion. In a democratic country, it is imperative to let people freely exercise their right to marry the people of their own choice, irrespective of religion.

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Article source: Kerala High Court

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