On 7th May, the Supreme Court came to the rescue of a Karnataka politician’s 26-year-old daughter, who has been married off by her family allegedly without her consent, and asked the state police to provide her security, after she claimed there was a threat to her life from her kin. The woman, a computer engineer who was named Ms ‘X’ in the plea, appeared before a bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra and submitted that her marriage be set aside as she did not consent to it and that she be granted protection as she wanted to pursue further studies and job in Bengaluru. The bench, also comprising justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, said that it has already made clear that it will not deal with the constitutionality of the provisions of the Hindu Marriage Act and validity of her “forced marriage”. The bench, however, considered the plea of woman for grant of security and asked the Karnataka police to provide it to her at Bengaluru where she would be residing for work and further studies.“You (woman) are a major. You are independent to go wherever you want to go,” the bench said, adding that nobody, including her family members and the husband, can force or coerce her. It considered the submissions of senior advocate Indira Jaising, appearing for the woman, who had requested that her identity and that of her family not be disclosed, that her parents be asked to give back the documents like educational certificates, Aadhaar card and passport. Jaising, who initially sought setting aside of marriage on the grounds of lack of consent, later said that the woman would be pursuing the remedy for dissolution of marriage at an appropriate forum. The bench then discharged Delhi police and the Delhi Commission for Women, which were granting protection and pursuing her case respectively, of their responsibility as the woman said that she would be going back to Karnataka. Earlier, the apex court had asked the Centre and the Delhi Police to grant her protection during the stay in the national capital. The woman had sought striking down of sections 5 and 7 of the Hindu Marriage Act (HMA) to the extent that they fail “to prescribe free, fair, valid prior consent of the parties to a marriage. “We can deal this petition as habeas corpus petition only. We will not get into the constitutionality of the provisions of the HMA,” the bench had said. The woman had sought quashing of her marriage conducted on March 14, 2018, on the grounds that it was solemnised without her free, fair and valid prior consent by her family members. The court had said such a declaration that lack of explicit consent would render the marriage invalid can be decided through appropriate proceedings emanating from family court. She had claimed that her fundamental right to choose her life partner, has been brazenly trampled by her “family members, who in connivance with each other, have coerced, threatened, blackmailed, harassed, pressurized, abused, compelled and tricked her into getting married to the man, against her wishes and free consent”. The woman had also claimed that she had escaped from the “clutches of her abusive family in Karnataka” and reached Delhi and further sought direction to the authorities from the apex court to provide her adequate security in order to safeguard her life, liberty and limb which was under threat from her own family members who are politically active in Karnataka. She had also said her family’s conduct was indicative of resulting in the ghastly act of ‘honour killing’ as she wanted to get married to a person outside her caste. The woman, an engineer by profession, alleged that she was forced to discontinue her studies in January this year as her parents forced her to marry against her wishes.
BY- TAASIR, STUDENT REPORTER, INBA