Supreme Court sets aside Kerala high court order, upholds Hadiya's marriage

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The Supreme Court's ruling on Thursday upholding the validity of the marriage of a young Hindu adult in Kerala, Akhila Asokan, who converted to Islam in 2016 and took the Islamic name of Hadiya, and married a young Muslim man, Shafin Jahan, in July, is important on several grounds. The Kerala High Court in May previous year had annulled Hadiya's marriage with Jahan terming it as an instance of "love jihad", after her father Ashokan KM filed a habeas corpus petition. Hadiya's father had alleged that she was a victim of "love jihad" According to reports, during the hearing, the Supreme Court bench reiterated that the court can not intervene in the case of a marriage between two consenting adults.

The National Investigation Agency (NIA), which examined so-called cases of "love jihad" at the order of the Supreme Court in connection with the Hadiya case, found that four of the 11 cases it looked at involved Hindu men converting to Islam or being convinced to convert to Islam to marry Muslim women.

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On Thursday, Senior Advocate Shyam Divan, appearing for Asokan, said the High Court was within its powers to annul the marriage.

During the hearing, the top court asked National Investigation Agency to investigate whether there was a pattern or an organised effort behind these conversions and marriages.

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In a submission to the high court, Hadiya rejected the allegations against her husband by the anti-terror investigations agency, before appealing against the decision to the Supreme Court. "In that case, you may arrest the offender but not investigate into whether or not the marriage is a disguise". Significantly, the HC had also directed "comprehensive" investigation into cases of "love jihad" and has incidents of forced conversion probed thoroughly. "There is an inherent jurisdiction in a court of law to annul a marriage in an appropriate case", he said, arguing that the expanding concept of law takes into account the question of "marriage frauds". Neither Hadiya nor Shafin was present in court. NIA is free to probe IS luring or coercing people to join it, but we are not well served by lazy Islamophobic associations that link terrorism and threat with marriages.

Justice Chandrachud, however, said that "the moment we step into the realm of public law, we are stepping into a risky domain".

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