SC sets Hadiya free from parents' custody

SC sets Hadiya free from parents' custody

The Supreme Court on Monday freed Hadiya, at the centre of a 'love jihad' case, from her parents' custody, enabling her to continue her homoeopathy course.

The Kerala High Court had set aside the marriage of Akhila alias Hadiya to a Muslim man in December, accepting the contention that it was a case of love jihad.

Answering a flurry of queries through an interpreter, the 25-year-old told the court, "I want my freedom. I want to go with my husband."

"I am under unlawful custody for the past 11 months," she replied to another question.

A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, however, ordered that she be taken to her college in Salem at the earliest to complete an 11-month internship programme, and appointed the college dean as her local guardian.

"She will be treated like any other student," the court said, directing the Tamil Nadu government to ensure her security during her stay there.

To the court's question, if her education expenses would be met by the state, Hadiya said her husband can take care of it. "A wife is not a chattel. She is an individual with an independent status in society," the bench remarked.

The court posted her husband Shafin Jahan's plea against the high court's May judgement, invalidating his marriage, for consideration in January.

As the woman was brought to the court from her father's custody, the bench, also comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, asked if it should interact with her in open court, even as senior advocate Shyam Divan, representing Hadiya's father Asokan K M, pleaded for in-camera hearing.

"What are the parameters to examine her? What should be the stage to allow individual freedom, autonomy and choice? We have to respect the dignity of the person. What is the stage where the court should cross the threshold in view of the constitutional principle of individual freedom... once consent is not voluntary, what is the duty of the court?" the bench said.

Senior lawyer Kapil Sibal, along with advocate Indira Jaising, insisted, "The court has to interact with her in any case. We don't have any objection if the court wants to talk to her in chambers."

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