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The Word 'Hadiya' Means A Guide To Righteousness And Right Now, The Judiciary And The State Need It

Judicial wisdom is prevailing over basic fundamental rights.

28/11/2017 8:32 AM IST | Updated 28/11/2017 8:32 AM IST
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24-year-old Hadiya alias Akhila (In Red Dress) at the supreme court after hearing on November 27, 2017 in New Delhi, India.

Akhila means one who is complete. Hadiya means the guide to righteousness. Both beautiful names, but the latter has made its way into public consciousness not for the charm of its meaning but because of the misplaced sense of political and judicial self-righteousness which has torn apart two adults who consensually entered into wedlock.

As background, in case you have been following the case, earlier this year the Kerala High Court annulled the marriage of a couple on the ground that a Hindu girl of about 25 years had converted to Islam under suspicious circumstances and was deemed to not have been mature enough to enter into wedlock with a Muslim man. Her parents had alleged indoctrination and radicalisation and filed a writ of habeas corpus seeking custody of the woman.

Akhila had become Hadiya and the High Court in its wisdom thought it legal and valid to annul the marriage altogether despite not having the power to do so under the prevailing law and irrespective of the fact that no such petition for annulment had been filed by either Hadiya or her husband.

Hindustan Times via Getty Images
24-year-old Hadiya alias Akhila (in red dress) at the supreme court after hearing on November 27, 2017 in New Delhi, India.

The High Court observed that it was not satisfied that it is safe to let 'Akhila' free to decide what she wants in her life. Again, judicial wisdom prevailed over basic fundamental rights, the rights of an adult woman whom the Court thought it had dominion over.

Again, judicial wisdom prevailed over basic fundamental rights, the rights of an adult woman whom the Court thought it had dominion over.

In the appeal filed by her husband, the Supreme Court went one step ahead.

It directed an investigation by the National Investigation Agency and sought a report while maintaining Hadiya's custody with her parents. The bench hearing the matter changed with the new Chief Justice of India taking over the bench. Initially the new bench made the right noises and questioned the wisdom of its predecessor in interfering in the private life of a citizen.

In the meanwhile, another member of the bench ironically wrote a very famous judgment on the right to privacy emphasising the right of a woman and her bodily autonomy.

No one till date knew what Hadiya, the only person whose views matter in the case, actually felt about the entire situation.

That is till Monday when she appeared before the Supreme Court and declared at the top of her voice that she wants to go back to her husband and wanted her freedom to be restored. She reportedly made her opinion known despite attempts to suppress the same at the behest of the NIA and her father. That is where the matter should have ended. However, the Court did not feel that was necessary.

Sivaram V / Reuters
Akhila, 24, who converted to Islam in 2016 and took a new name, Hadiya, arrives at the airport in Kochi, November 25, 2017.

The Court passed magnanimous directions ensuring that Hadiya will complete her education at the cost of the State. The Court asked her a range of questions pertaining to her qualifications, interest in studies, perception of life and what she intends to do in future. The order recorded that she wants to continue her education and thus the Court made arrangements 'as desired by her'. What the order does not record is that she wanted to continue her education with the support of her husband and not at State largesse. What she actually wanted was freedom to be with her husband and profess her faith. She was denied all of that.

Even if there is criminality involved, the State or the judiciary does not have the jurisdiction to annul marriages without due process, or to adjudicate whether an adult citizen is 'mature' enough to make her life choices.

We don't know whether there has been any indoctrination or radicalisation. It very well may have happened. Or maybe not. However, what we do know is that an adult individual is being treated as a minor. Her choices being bulldozed over by the State and its judiciary.

If at all there is any criminality involved in the whole matter is something that remains to be seen and the criminal justice system is fully equipped to redress the same. What is not being understood is that even if there is criminality involved, the State or the judiciary does not have the jurisdiction to annul marriages without due process, or to adjudicate whether an adult citizen is 'mature' enough to make her life choices.

The matter is still pending and the outcome may be positive for all we know. But right now the judiciary and the State need a 'Hadiya'.

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