Caste And Community Tensions May Reduce If Educated Youngsters Choose Their Life Partners: Supreme Court

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • In the case of Laxmibai Chandargi B vs. State of Karnataka, the Supreme Court of India reiterated that the liberty of an individual to choose her life partner is a requisite to the dignity of the individual.
  • The Bench of Justices Sanjay KishanKaul and Hrishikesh Roy observed that young individuals who select the person they want to marry continue to face warnings from elders and that courts usually come to help them.
  • The Court also noted that young boys and girls who are educated choose their life partners which is a departure from earlier norms of society, where partners were chosen on the basis of caste and community. The Court also stated that this can be a way forward where tensions related to caste and community will decrease by such intermarriage.

BACKGROUND

A college lecture who was Karnataka based filed a petition in the court. Her parents had registered a missing person case against her when she flew to Delhi without informing her parents.

She did so to marry a man from Uttar Pradesh. The petitioner sent her parents a copy of her marriage certificate via WhatsApp a day after the complaint was filed.

The lecturer was requested to appear before the Murgod Police Station atBelagavi District in Karnataka by the investigating officer (IO) in the case. The petitioner had notified the investigating officer that she was living with her husband, and cannot visit the designated police station because she has been facing threats from her parents and her uncle.

The case was not closed by the police even after receiving this information. Instead, police threatened to file a case of kidnapping against the husband of the petitioner if she does not appear at the Belagavi police station.

The officer also informed the petitioner that her family members may file a case against her alleging that she has stolen things from the home, and if this is done, her husband would have to be arrested.

FURTHER DETAILS

After these threats, the petitioner approached the Allahabad High Court to seek relief, but since this case was not in its jurisdiction, she approached the Supreme Court.

In the judgment, it was stated that the right to marry a person of choice is an indispensable part of Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. It was also held that intimacies of married life are private and nature, and thus cannot be violated even by the matters of faith.

The Supreme Court referred to its previous judgments in KS Puttaswamy and ShafinJahan. In both of these cases, the Court had held that the consent of the family or the community or the clan is not important once two individuals who are adults agree to marry each other. It has also been noted that the consent of the adults who are entering into wedlock has primary importance.

In the case of ShefinJahan, the three-judge bench presided by Chief Justice DipakMisra, it was held that the choice of a partner whether within or outside marriage lies with the exclusive domain of each individual, and it is an absolute right.

The Court while disapproving the conduct of the investigating officer held that the IO could have visited the residence of the petitioner to record the statement. The Bench also stated that the officer must be sent for counseling so that he can learn how to manage such cases.

In the judgment, it was also observed that if the officer had performed his role without adopting tactics then the case would not have reached the apex court.

The FIR against the petitioner was quashed by the Supreme Court of India. The Court also expressed a desire that the parents will accept the marriage and establish communication with their daughter and son-in-law again.

UNDERSTANDING ARTICLE 21

Article 21 states that no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to the procedure established by law. The scope of Article 21 of the Indian Constitution is much more profound.

The article also constitutes right to live with human dignity, right to livelihood, right to health, right to privacy, right to live a quality life, right to go abroad, right to pollution-free air and right against delayed execution.

Right to marry someone of own choice comes under human dignity, and right to privacy as well. Thus, this right cannot be taken away.

CONCLUSION AND WAY FORWARD

As noted by the honorable court that the way forward to the police authorities is not only to counsel the investigating officers. A training program is also necessary so that such cases can be dealt with efficiency for the benefit of the police personnel.

Individuals who get married to someone of their choice are afraid to reach out to the police. As evident in the aforementioned facts, the individuals get threats from the police as well.

The right to marry a person of one's choice is integral to Article 21 of the Constitution of India. This right cannot be taken away except through a substantive and procedurally fair law that is just and reasonable.

The society does not play any role in determining the choice of life partners for individuals. Though, in a country like India where the institution of marriage is given very high regards, this change will take time. It will be difficult for the elders to accept that individuals can choose who they want to marry especially if both belong to different caste and community.

It has been noted by the court that social and moral values are not above constitutionally guaranteed freedom.

Click here to download the original copy of the judgment

 

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Mansi Aggarwal 
on 23 February 2021
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