This article is written by Yash Kapadia. Through this article, we shall provide a case summary wherein the Supreme Court has answered whether consent of one’s family is required or not when two adults decide to marry. 

Introduction

In India, as we all know, marriages are often decided when the family of the bride and groom both agree to it. However, considering the modern 21st century, sometimes the families do not agree to the marriage. If the couple still marries, does it make the marriage null or void or illegal? Is the consent of the family of the couple marrying each other a prerequisite? 

A division bench of the Hon’ble Supreme Court comprising Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice Hrishikesh Roy answered the above question in the landmark case of Laxmibai Chandaragi B & Anr. v. State of Karnataka & Ors. [Writ Petition (Criminal) No. 359/2020] pronounced on February 8, 2021.1

Through this article, we shall provide a case summary of the aforementioned case including the facts, issues, submissions and judgement followed by an analysis of the decision. 

Facts

One Mr. Basappa Chandaragi reported his daughter, Ms. Laxmibai Chandaragi, Petitioner No.1 in the present case, to be missing since 14th October 2020 at the Murgod Police Station in Savadatti Taluk, Belagavi District. In response to the complaint, a missing person’s First Information Report was filed and the Investigating Officer gathered the missing person’s parents and relatives’ statements as well as their phone numbers. After accessing the call details, it was evident that Petitioner No.1 was in contact with Petitioner No.2 Mr. Santosh Singh Yadav. 

It is pertinent to mention that both parties are well educated. The Petitioner No. 2 is an M.Tech from NIT, Tiruchirapalli, while Petitioner No.1 is an M.A.B.Ed. Petitioner No. 2 had got a placement as an Assistant Professor in Jain College of Engineering, Belagavi, Karnataka while Petitioner No.1 was a Lecturer in Karnataka Lingayat Education Society Pre-University College, Bailhongal and in the course they fell in love with each other during these assignments. 

During the course of the investigation to find Petitioner No. 1, it was discovered that she and Petitioner No. 2 traveled from Hubli to Bangalore and then to Delhi through Bangalore without informing her parents and went on to marry Petitioner No. 2. Petitioner No.1 revealed the fact of her marriage to her parents by sending them a marriage certificate via WhatsApp on 15th October 2020.

Considering that a missing complaint was filed, the Investigating Officer went to Ghaziabad where Petitioner No. 1 resided and demanded that Petitioner No. 1 appear at the Murgod police station to provide a statement that she was married so that the case might be concluded. This was also followed by a letter written by Petitioner No. 1 to the Investigating Officer (IO), indicating that she was married to Petitioner No. 2 and that due to imminent threat from her family members she would be unable to visit the police station. The IO, however, refused to close the case. In fact, the Investigating Officer told Petitioner No. 1 that unless she returned to Karnataka, they would in turn file a kidnapping case against her husband i.e. Petitioner No. 2 at the request of her family members.

In the aforesaid circumstances, the Petitioners filed the present petition before the Hon’ble Supreme Court under Article 32 of the Constitution of India, claiming that she was subject to dual jurisdiction because she lived with Petitioner No. 2 in Uttar Pradesh while she was from Karnataka. The petitioners submitted that they were being threatened by the uncle of Petitioner No. 1. They also sought protection from the Allahabad High Court, but the petition could not reach the board for an urgent hearing even after pressing for it for approximately a month.

Issue

Whether the First Information Report should be quashed because both parties consented to marry at their own will.

Judgment

The Supreme Court ruled that the procedures arising from the Murgod Police Station, Belagavi District, Karnataka, First Information Report were annulled. 

Court’s view on the Investigating Officer’s approach 

The Apex Court stated its dissatisfaction with the way the IO handled the investigation. It stated that if the IO could have visited the residence of Petitioner No. 2, he could have recorded the statement of Petitioner No.1 at the place where the petitioners were residing rather than insisting and calling upon the petitioners to come to the local police station at Karnataka thereby delaying the investigation. Moreover, the IO’s move to threaten the Petitioner with false charges on her husband if she did not come to Karnataka to give her statement was seriously disregarded and condemned by the Apex Court. The Bench stated that its interference would not be required if the IO did his job responsibly. For this reason, it was also suggested that IO must be counselled and programs must be devised to train the police personnel to handle such cases. 

The Apex Court whilst citing the forward-thinking approach stated that nowadays educated younger boys and girls choose their life partners which, in turn, is a departure from the earlier norms of society where caste and community used to play a major role in deciding such things and one must adapt to it.  

Where can a statement be taken

The Court stated that the Petitioner No. 1’s marriage certificate and her chat with the IO, in which she said that she is not missing but is living with her husband and voiced concern for her safety in returning to her hometown to record her statement, clearly demonstrated the truth of the issue. The officer can record the statement wherever the subject feels safe and secure, rather than imposing coercion that their statement would only be recorded if they are accompanied to the specified police station. 

Case laws cited and relied upon

The Apex Court relied on the case of Shakti Vahini v. Union of India, 2018 wherein the Apex Court stated that the consent of the family or the community or the clan is not necessary once the two adult individuals agree to enter into a wedlock and that their consent has to be piously given primacy. “The choice of an individual is an inextricable part of dignity, for dignity cannot be thought of where there is erosion of choice. Once the fundamental right is inherent in a person, the intolerant groups who subscribe to the view of superiority class complex or higher clan cannot scuttle the right of a person by leaning on any kind of philosophy, moral or social, or self-proclaimed elevation.

This Court reiterated as stated in Shafin Jahan v. Asokan K M & Ors, 2018 that our society is undergoing a transformation period which is extremely crucial. Marriage’s intimacies are contained inside an inviolable zone of privacy, where even concerns of faith have the least impact. Article 21 of the Indian Constitution was determined to include the right to marry a person of one’s choice.

The Bench stated unequivocally that any person’s matrimonial affairs are covered by the Right to Privacy, which is now a basic right under Article 21 following the Supreme Court’s judgment in the case of K.S Puttaswamy v. Union of India, 2017. Article 21 guarantees the freedom to choose one’s life partner, which is the most intimate of all the rights that make up personal liberty. The Court stated that intimacies of marriage lie within a core zone of privacy, which is inviolable and even matters of faith would have the least effect on them. The right to marry a person of choice is therefore held to be integral to Article 21 of the Constitution of India. 

Final Order

Therefore, the FIR against the Petitioner was ordered to be quashed and the present writ was disposed of with the hope that the parents of Petitioner No. 1 willingly accept her marriage and re-establish their relationship. 

Analysis

  • In my opinion, the way the inquiry was conducted did not reflect well on the police department or the IO particularly. Petitioner No. 1 presented her marriage certificate, which clearly indicated that she was married to Petitioner No. 2 and that she was afraid to come to the police station because she felt intimidated and threatened by her family’s actions. The Hon’ble Supreme Court chastised the Investigating Officer for using such tactics and ordered that he be sent for counselling to learn how to handle such situations. This sets a strong precedent as well as an example to various IO’s handling similar matters and displays the Court’s stern views on such ways in which investigations are taking place. 
  • The parents of Petitioner No. 1 were opposed, but the parents of Petitioner No. 2 were in favour of the nuptials of both the well-qualified petitioners who are majors and Hindus. This goes on to show that being educated, it brings more convincing that both the petitioners know what they are doing and are clearly not disputing their love for each other. The only backdrop is the Petitioner No. 1’s family who were not accepting the person their daughter has married, which is not something new in today’s modern times. 
  • The Apex Court correctly stated that younger educated boys and girls picking their life partners is a departure from earlier societal conventions in which caste and community used to play a prominent role, but it is also a step forward in reducing caste and community tensions. Such children, however, fear threats from their elders, and the courts have stepped in to help them. This also sets an example to parents as well as children that there is nothing illegal or void in marrying someone when there is consent and willingness from both ends. 
  • While citing and relying on judicial precedents the Supreme Court correctly stated that two mature adults can choose to enter into matrimony and the agreement of the family, community, or clan is not required and that their consent must be given primacy.
  • Reliance was also placed on the case of Asha Ranjan v. State of Bihar, 2017 that an individual’s choice is very complicatedly linked to dignity because dignity cannot be thought of in the absence of choice. The concept of ‘class honour’ or ‘group thinking’ is unlikely to surrender to such a right of choice.
  • Marriage’s intimacies are contained inside an inviolable zone of privacy, where even concerns of faith have the least impact. Article 21 of India’s Constitution was held to include the right to marry a person of one’s choice.

The Court also stated that individual autonomy, including in matters of family and marriage, is essential to an individual’s dignity. The Supreme Court also stated that even the Bench hoped that the parents of Petitioner No. 1 would see reason and recognise the marriage, allowing both petitioners to resume social activity. Quoting Dr. B.R. Ambedkar’s remarks from “Annihilation of Caste,” stated that alienating the child and son-in-law under the guise of caste and community will scarcely be a desired social exercise.

Conclusion

The right to choose a life partner is a fundamental right guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. We also learn that an IO cannot compel someone to travel to a specific police station to record a statement nor can police threaten someone with false charges as the same is deprecated by the Apex Court. 

In this instance, the Apex court slammed the IO and other police officials for not only forcing a woman to record her statements at a police station, but also for threatening her with a false case that her parents may file with the police, resulting in her husband’s incarceration. This sets a strong precedent to be followed in ongoing and future cases that are similar. 

In drawing things to a close and answering the question of whether the consent of family is needed once two adults have decided to marry, the answer is no. In any circumstances where two adults have voluntarily agreed to enter into matrimony, there is no need for clan, family, or community approval. i

References


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