A welcome quietus: on Hadiya case verdict
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Hadiya has at last won her freedom. The curious aspect of her case is that it took such a long time for the courts to acknowledge that the 25-year-old woman from Kerala enjoys as much freedom of choice in her marriage as in her religious belief. The Kerala High Court had caused quite a muddle (bring into a disordered or confusing state) when it annulled (declare invalid (an official agreement, decision, or result)) her marriage solely (not involving anyone or anything else; only) on the suspicion that it was a ruse (an action intended to deceive someone; a trick) to scuttle (run ; skip) habeas corpus (a writ requiring a person under arrest to be brought before a judge or into court, especially to secure the person’s release unless lawful grounds are shown for their detention) proceedings before it. On her father’s complaint that she had been indoctrinated (teach or instruct (someone)) and brainwashed into embracing Islam, and his fear that she was a victim of a movement to convert Hindu women and send them to overseas battle zones, the high court ordered her confinement in her parents’ home.
The Supreme Court’s categorical ruling that the high court was wrong in invalidating a marriage under its writ (warrant) jurisdiction constitutes a welcome end to the unjustified curtailment (the action or fact of reducing or restricting something) of her freedom of movement and her life choices. The verdict, for which detailed reasons are yet to be pronounced, restores the liberty of Ms. Hadiya, who chose to convert to Islam more than a year ago and later married a Muslim man. Last November, the apex court had freed (excuse) her from her parents’ custody and allowed her to complete her internship as part of a homoeopathy course she had taken up in Tamil Nadu. However, even this was somewhat unsatisfactory, as it appeared to be a compromise between being in parental custody and being allowed to live with her husband.
It is possible that her father, K.M. Asokan, was gripped (firmly hold the attention or interest of) by fear as her conversion came amid reports of radical groups recruiting young people on behalf of the Islamic State. The high court did not question her conversion, but suspected the veracity (conformity to facts; accuracy) of her claim that she was married, as it happened in a day’s break between hearings. However, these facts were not enough for the court to annul the marriage and label it a “sham”. The court made odd observations on how a woman’s marriage requires the involvement of her parents and that Ms. Hadiya was “at a vulnerable (unsafe ; unprotected) age”.
Even in the Supreme Court, Ms. Hadiya could explain to the judges that she stood by her marriage to Shafin Jahan only after other parties had advanced arguments on “indoctrination” and “conspiracy (a secret plan by a group to do something unlawful or harmful)” and the National Investigation Agency had its say. Finally, the court has now given primacy to her view. The implications of her ordeal are disquieting: it is not difficult in this country to question the life choices of an adult woman by casting doubts on her volition (the faculty or power of using one’s will) and personal autonomy, and her freedom to choose her way of life can sometimes be judicially curtailed (decrease ; reduce). While a lawful investigation into organised recruitment by radical groups must not be impeded (delay or prevent (someone or something) by obstructing them; hinder), courts should strive even harder to protect personal freedoms without being swayed (control or influence (a person or course of action)) by mere suspicion.