The Indian Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that the National Investigation Agency (NIA) can probe all aspect of the case involving Hadiya, a 24-year-old woman from Kerala, except her marriage to a Muslim man, observing that she's an adult and is free to choose her life partner, according to media reports.
"She has taken an independent choice... she is 24 years old. Marriage has to be separate from the aspect of criminal activity. Otherwise we will be creating a bad precedent in law. We cannot go into the marital status," Chief Justice Dipak Misra remarked, according to the Bar and Bench legal publication.
A bench comprising Chief Justice Misra and Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud held that the investigative agency can probe all aspects of the case with the exception of the marital status of Hadiya – a case that has come to be known as 'love jihad', what some Hindu rights activists see as the conversion of women from their community into Islam after marriage with Muslim men for the purpose of radicalization.
"We cannot inquire into whether the person she married is a good human being or a bad human being," Justice Chandrachud said.
The NIA had earlier claimed that there was a "well-oiled machinery" in Kerala involving groups working towards indoctrination of society.
News agency ANI quoted A Raghunath, one of the counsels of Hadiya's father, as saying: "We expect the NIA to file a report and the court to permit the girl to continue her studies. We are happy that she is safe. Let's see what happens." The court will further hear the matter on February 22.
Earlier, the apex court had freed her from the custody of her parents and instructed her to finish her homeopathy studies under her Hindu name: Akhila Ashokan.