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Analysis on Shafin Jahan v. K.M. Ashokan


Authored by Harsh Mangal


Key Words: Personal space, Right to Privacy, Freedom of Choice, Autonomy, Freedom of Marriage


Name of the Case – Shafin Jahan v. K.M. Ashokan & Others

Equivalent Citation – AIR 2018 SC 357

Name of the Parties –

Appellant – Shafin Jahan

Respondent – K.M. Ashokan & Ors

Date of Judgment – 08/03/2018

Bench – (CJ) Deepak Mishra, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud


Abstract

We are living in 21st century and India is known as the biggest democracy of the world. It is the high time that our society realizes, that after a certain age, one should be allowed to live their life in their own way with the freedom to make their own decisions. The case Shafina Jahan v. K.M. Ashokan is an important case, which highlights the concept of autonomy and privacy of a person’s daily life.


Facts of the Case

Akhila Ashokan, a 25 year old medical student, was converted to Islam and changed her name to Hadiya. After a few days, she married a Muslim man named Shafin Jahan. Mr. K.M. Ashokan, who was the father of Hadiya, came to know about this marriage and filed a police complaint, but there was no evident progress in the police investigation so Ashokan moved to the Kerala High Court and filed a criminal writ petition of Habeas Corpus[1].


According to the petition filed by Ashokan, Hadiya was brainwashed and forced to convert into Islam, and that there is a possibility that she would be used as a suicide bomber or a sex slave, and there is a risk that she could be taken out of the country, as her husband Shafin is linked to extremist Muslim Organizations.


After this Hadiya filed an affidavit, and affirmed that her conversion into Islam was her own decision and her marriage is with her own choice and full consent, and that she was not forced into something. Hadiya maintained her stand throughout the proceedings of the high court.


The court directed her to go back to the home of her parents, but she refused and expressed the desire to stay at Sathyasarani Educational Trust, Mallapuram. On 19 January 2019, court observed that Hadiya is not under any illegal detention, and therefore she was allowed to continue living at the trust.


On 21 December 2016, it was informed to high court that Hadiya got married on 19 December 2016, and the marriage was performed according to Islamic customs. The court then expressed that it is not satisfied with the way of the marriage, and called it a sham[2]. The court stated that the girl is at a vulnerable age and can be exploited easily and that is why the welfare of the girl is the concern of the state and the court exercised its jurisdiction of parens patriae[3].


The court nullified the marriage of Hadiya and Shafin gave the custody of Hadiya to her father Ashokan, stating that the husband is not authorized to act as the guardian of the girl and to give her away in the marriage. The court directed Hadiya to complete her studies, staying in the hostel, and there no one was allowed to meet her except her mother, and Hadiya was not allowed to have a cell phone with her.


A special leave petition was filed by Shafin Jahan in the Supreme Court, as he was aggrieved by the decision of High Court, of annulment of marriage. The Apex court realized that the high court overstepped its jurisdiction under habeas corpus, by nullifying the marriage. Every citizen is independent to take his/her own decisions, and this autonomy in their personal lives is assures by the constitution of India, and any court should not take it away.


Issue

Whether the high court has the authority to nullify the marriage of a major couple under Article 226[4] of the Indian Constitution?

Laws

1. Article 21 – Protection of life and personal liberty.[5]

2. Article 226 – Power of High Courts to issue certain writs, notwithstanding anything in Article 32.[6]


Held

The three judge bench of the Supreme Court gave it decision on 8th March 2018, and held that the court or the judges should not intrude in the personal space of the married couple, and that’s what is done by the High Court of Kerala. It is the choice of the individual to determine his/her life partner and no one can interfere in that. The Supreme Court set aside the judgment of High Court of annulment of the marriage of Hadiya and Shafin Jahan, and recognized the marriage.


Conclusion

This was a historic judgment, for the subject of freedom of choice, and it is of great importance after the judgment of Justice KS Puttaswamy v. Union of India[7], after which right to privacy became a fundamental right. Any person cannot be forced to share his/her personal details, like details of marriage.


We should also understand that, a major girl cannot be ordered to stay isolated and she cannot be forced to live where she don’t want to. Our society should realize the need of independence and autonomy after a certain age, and should not interfere in someone’s personal life. Each and every person has a right to live their life according to their own will and their personal space should not be encroached even by their own family members.

[1] https://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/habeas+corpus [2] https://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/sham [3] https://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/parens+patriae [4] https://indiankanoon.org/doc/1712542/ [5] https://indiankanoon.org/doc/1199182/ [6] https://indiankanoon.org/doc/1712542/ [7] https://indiankanoon.org/doc/91938676/

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