Allahabad High Court has dismissed a case filed against a Muslim man by his wife's family who claimed that their daughter converted from Hinduism to Islam last year to marry him.
"The right to choose a partner irrespective of caste, creed or religion is intrinsic to the constitutional right to life and personal liberty," the high court said, adding that two earlier judgments that objected to religious conversion for the purpose of marriage didn't lay down good law.
The bench, comprising Justice Pankaj Naqvi and Justice Vivek Agarwal, was hearing a petition by Salamat Ansari and Priyanka Kharwar alias Alia to quash a police complaint against them by the woman's father. The petitioners contended they were both majors and competent to choose their life partners. The court agreed with the petitioners, both residents of Kushinagar district.
"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 bench held. "An individual on attaining majority is statutorily conferred a 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 the Constitution of India," the High Court bench observed.
The decision by the bench was delivered on November 11, but it was made public on Monday, November 23.
The order may pose some legal trouble for the Uttar Pradesh government, which is planning to introduce a stringent law to regulate interfaith relationships based on the two previous judgments that were both delivered by single-judge benches.
The judges held that any interference in a personal relationship would amount to "serious encroachment" on the right to freedom of choice.
"We fail to understand that if the law permits two persons even of the same sex to live together peacefully then neither any individual nor a family nor even state can have an objection to the relationship of two major individuals who out of their own free will are living together," the court's verdict read.
The recent order also contradicted the last two judgments, of which one was delivered in 2014 and the other in 2020 that stated that religious conversion for the sake of marriage was not valid under law.
"We hold the judgments in the Noor Jahan and Priyanshi (cases) as not laying good law. None of these judgments dealt with the issue of life and liberty of two matured individuals in choosing a partner or their right to freedom of choice as to with whom they would like to live," the recent order by the Allahabad HC read.
Shortly after the HC passed the order in October, Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath announced that his government was planning to bring a law to regulate "love jihad".
In the current case, the petitioners sought quashing of a FIR lodged on August 25, 2019, for alleged kidnapping, assault and other sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
The petitioners said that they were living as a couple peacefully for one year and the FIR, which was registered by the woman's father aimed at dissolving the marriage.
"To disregard the choice of a person who is of the age of majority would not only be antithetic to the freedom of choice of a grown-up individual but would also be a threat to the concept of unity in diversity," Allahabad HC ordered.