Bangalore: The People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) has said it will file a writ petition in the Supreme Court challenging the Karnataka High Court’s order asking a woman who had converted to Islam to marry a Muslim man from Kerala, to return to her parents’ home until the case was investigated.
The PUCL will question the decision of the High Court to send the 23-year-old woman back to her family despite her statement in court that she had willingly converted and was waiting to get married under the provisions of the Special Marriages Act.
Hearing the case of Siljaraj and Azghar, the court had said the facts had "national ramifications concerning security, besides the question of unlawful trafficking of women," and ordered the Director-General and Inspector-General of Police to hold a thorough investigation to rule out the theory that this was a case of ‘love jehad’ (a loose coinage implying that women are being lured into conversion through marriage) and file a report by November 13. The girl was asked to stay with her parents until such time.
"She is a major and no one has a right to thrust her back into the family. We see it as part of a pattern of continued intimidation on the basis of community and gender, first started in Dakshina Kannada," said Ramadasa Rao of the PUCL. He feared that the girl might come under pressure of family and community during her stay with them.
The whole notion of ‘love jehad’, said Professor Rao, is a "figment of the imagination" and the order will severely impact the rights of young women and men to free association and marriage.
Reacting to the order, senior advocate Ravi Varma Kumar said that it violated Article 21 (of life and personal liberty) and Article 25 (of freedom of religion) of the Indian Constitution. He cited Lata Singh vs. State of Uttar Pradesh, 2006, in which the Supreme Court upheld the right of a person who had reached the age of majority to marry of his or her own choice. Kirti Singh, a Supreme Court advocate and legal convener of the All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA), described the case as "absolutely shocking." She said the question of national security was being mixed up with the simple case of a girl exercising a choice guaranteed to her under the law of the land and Constitution. "The court has taken a patriarchal role," she said, stating that it reflected intolerance for the girl’s choices.
In Bangalore, Home Minister V.S. Acharya told reporters that ‘love jehad’ appeared to be a "serious issue." The State government would take steps to counter it.
The Muslim Central Committee of Dakshina Kannada and Udupi districts will convene a conference of Muslims in Mangalore on November 12 to discuss issues related to ‘love jehad’.
Addressing reporters in Mangalore on Thursday, committee president K.S. Mohammed Masood alleged that vested interests were attempting to tarnish the image of Islam by framing the phrase ‘love jehad’. "There is no such phrase in Islam. It is an absurd usage," he added.