PRAYAGRAJ: The Allahabad high court has held that “right to choose a partner, irrespective of religion, is intrinsic to right to life and personal liberty” and quashed an FIR of kidnapping, forcible conversion and under POSCO Act against a man accused of forcefully converting and marrying a Hindu girl.
The court also observed that judgments into two previous cases of interfaith marriages, where it observed that “conversion for the purpose of marriage is unacceptable” were not “good laws”. “We hold judgments in Noor Jahan and Priyanshi cases as not laying good law. None of these judgments dealt with the issue of life and liberty of two mature individuals in choosing a partner or their right to freedom of choice,” the bench said.
Justice Pankaj Naqvi and Justice Vivek Agarwal made these observations, while allowing a petition filed by Salamat Ansari and Priyanka Kharwar alias Alia of Kushinagar on November 11. The petitioners sought quashing of FIR lodged on August 25, 2019, at Vishnupura police station of Kushinagar. The petitioners’ contention was the couple were adults and competent to marry as per their choice. Counsel for the woman’s father opposed the petition on grounds that conversion for sake of marriage was prohibited and such a marriage had no legal sanctity.
The court after hearing both parties observed, “To disregard the choice of a person who is an adult would not only be antithetic to freedom of choice of a grown-up individual, but would also be a threat to concept of unity in diversity. An individual on attaining majority is statutorily conferred with the right to choose a partner, which if denied would not only affect his/her human right, but also his/her right to life and personal liberty, guaranteed under Article 21 of Constitution,” the bench observed.
It added, “We do not see Priyanka Kharwar and Salamat as Hindu and Muslim, rather as two grown-up individuals who out of their own free will and choice are living together peacefully and happily over a year. The courts and constitutional courts in particular are enjoined to uphold life and liberty of an individual guaranteed under Article 21 of Constitution.”
“Right to live with a person of his/her choice irrespective of religion professed by them, is intrinsic to right to life and personal liberty. Interference in a personal relationship would constitute a serious encroachment on the right to freedom of the two individuals. The decision of an individual who is of age of majority, to live with an individual of his/her choice is strictly a right of an individual and when this right is infringed upon, it would constitute breach of his/her fundamental right to life and personal liberty as it includes right to freedom of choice, to choose a partner and right to live with dignity as enshrined in Article 21 of Constitution,” the bench observed.
“We fail to understand if the law permits two persons even of same sex to live together peacefully then neither any individual nor a family nor even State can have objection to relationship of two major individuals who out of free will are living together,” the judges observed.
The judges also cited Supreme Court’s judgment in K S Puttaswamy vs Union of India case on the right to privacy, which said, “The autonomy of the individual is the ability to make decisions on vital matters of concern to life.”