Tuesday, April 10, 2018

India Supreme Court Affirms Right To Choose Religion and Marriage Partner

In Jahan v. Asokan K.M., (India Sup. Ct., April 9, 2018), a 3-judge panel of India's Supreme Court, in 61 pages of opinions, set aside a High Court's order that had annulled the marriage of a 26-year old student who had converted to Islam in order to marry. The court strongly affirmed the right of individuals to choose their religious faith and their marriage partner. The court's opinion by Chief Justice Misra said in part
It is obligatory to state here that expression of choice in accord with law is acceptance of individual identity. Curtailment of that expression ... destroy the individualistic entity of a person.  The social values and morals have their space  but they are not above the constitutionally guaranteed freedom.  The said freedom is both a constitutional and a human right. Deprivation of that freedom which is ingrained in choice on the plea of faith is impermissible.  Faith of a person is intrinsic to his/her meaningful existence.  To have the freedom of faith is essential to his/her autonomy....
In the case at hand, the father ... may feel that there has been enormous transgression of his right to protect the interest of his daughter but his view point or position cannot be allowed to curtail the fundamental rights of his daughter who, out of her own volition, married the appellant.
A concurring opinion by Justice Chandrachud added:
The right to marry a person of one’s choice is integral to Article 21 of the Constitution. The Constitution guarantees the right to life.... Intrinsic to the liberty which the Constitution guarantees as a fundamental right is the ability of each individual to take decisions on matters central to the pursuit of happiness. Matters of belief and faith, including whether to believe are at the core of constitutional liberty. The Constitution exists for believers as well as for agnostics. The Constitution protects the ability of each individual to pursue a way of life or faith to which she or he seeks to adhere. Matters of dress and of food, of ideas and ideologies, of love and partnership are within the central aspects of identity.... Society has no role to play in determining our choice of partners. 
One India and The Hindu report on the decision.