A cornerstone of the Indian Constitution is the basic personal freedoms guaranteed under it, and these applied automatically to all citizens the moment it became the law of the land. These freedoms—including the freedom to love and marry of your own choice, and to propagate your religion, to cite the two relevant here—are inviolable in law. Yes, the depressing realities of Indian life can often run quite contrary to them, but there is absolutely nothing in the letter or spirit of the law that can impinge on them in ordinary circumstances. Yes, both of them can be the cause of pain and high emotions at an individual or collective level. But the only conditionalities that can be brought in relate to the threat of violence or incitement to it. Nothing else.
The Supreme Court, therefore, has made a welcome intervention in the vexed Akhila/Hadiya case by asking the Kerala High Court whether it had any right (under Article 226) to annul a 24-year-old woman’s marriage. Or, as has been happening under the High Court’s instructions, keep her caged under her father’s supervision and control against her wishes.
The final decision is awaited and, among the things to be aired around that time, there will be the findings of the NIA investigation, ordered by the Supreme Court under the previous chief justice, on whether this conversion was part of an elaborate design linked to ISIS terror. For a single person’s conversion that was self-willed and initiated by personal fascination, this seems prima facie to be too wide and loose an aspersion.
What complicates the issue, of course, is the presence in the frame of the Popular Front of India, a less-than-savoury fundamentalist outfit, of which her husband Shafin is said to be a member. The basic questions before the court need not get clouded, however. If anyone shows any remote hint of commissioning or participating in violence, the law agencies are there for that. But everyone has the right to convert, join any legal organisation, or marry of their own choice. That’s the law.