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August 4, 2017

SC hears case of HC’s invalidation of Muslim convert girl’s marriage

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New Delhi, Aug 4: Even as 24-year-old Hadiya, who was forced to end relationship with her husband and stay in her ‘Hindu’ father’s home by Kerala High Court has been reeling under depression, the Supreme Court has been presented with two conflicting versions about her decision to embrace Islam. 

Her husband, Shafeen Jahan, portrayed Hadiya as an independent and devout woman who converted to Islam on her own volition and much before their wedding. Jahan has approached the Supreme Court with a request to order the girl’s father to produce her in court.

On the other hand, backed by Sangh Parivar, her father Ashokan Mani, from Vaikom of Kottayam district, continued to portray her as a victim “trapped by a “well-oiled” racket that uses “psychological measures” to indoctrinate people and convert them to Islam. He also alleged that Jahan is a criminal and his daughter was trapped by a network with connections to Popular Front of India and even the Islamic State, a terror outfit. In fact the Kerala police also have confirmed that Jahan has no criminal record. 

“My daughter once told me that she wants to do sheep-farming in Syria... even the most liberal of fathers would be shocked to hear this,” he told a Bench of Chief Justice of India J.S. Khehar and D.Y. Chandrachud on Friday. However, the Jahan has accused his Hindu father-in-law of telling lies about latter’s daughter.

Depression

It could be recalled here that in a controversial ruling, the Division Bench of Kerala High Court in May this year, had invalidated the marriage of Hadiya and Jahan based on the unproven allegations of her father.

It is learnt that Hadiya is under depression after she was forced to stay in her parental house. According to sources, she spends time by reading Quran and doesn’t interact with her father properly.

Conversion

Ashokan Mani, an ex-serviceman filed Habeas Corpus petition before the Kerala High Court on January 25, 2016 when he found that his daughter Akhila (now Hadiya) was missing from the campus she studied. Akhila was a student of the Bachelor of Homeopathic Medicine and Surgery course in Salem.

In his petition, Ashokan alleged that his daughter was forcibly converted to Islam and sought the help of the court to find her. Ashokan named two of Akhila's classmates Jaseena Aboobaker and her sister Faseena - residents of Perinthalmanna - as the persons behind her disappearance from the campus under mysterious circumstances.

Ashokan said in his petition that Akhila and eight other friends including Jaseena and Faseena were staying in a rented house near their college in Salem. They used to visit her friends' home in Perinthalmanna during holidays.

Daughter was afraid of Hindu father 

Ashokan mentioned in his petition that he noticed some behavioural changes in her daughter when came home to attend her grandfather's funeral in December 2015. Ashokan said that Akhila was not ready to perform Hindu rituals.

On January 6, 2017 Ashokan received a phone call from the father of one of Akhila's classmate informing him that his daughter was seen wearing veil and that she was converted to Islam.

The news was a shock to Ashokan. Family members passed information to Akhila that her father suffered a mild heart attack because of her. However, she was not ready to visit father as she was afraid that he may not allow her to follow Islam.

Father’s allegation and daughter’s clarification

Ashokan later told police that Akhila had informed him that she was being forcibly held by people including Jaseena and Aboobacker.  Ashokan claimed in his petition that those people were engaged in forcible conversion of vulnerable youths of other faiths.

On the complaint by Ashokan, police began probe. Hadiya was found but she submitted an affidavit before Perinthalmanna police that she was following Islam since 2012 and had willingly left her home. She rubbished the allegation made by her father and family members.

Hadiya told the police officials that she joined a course run by Tharbiathul Islam Sabha, Kottackal in Malappuram to learn Islam and shifted her residence to Satyasarani in Manjery - an Islamic Institution.

According to her affidavit, Hadiya stayed in Aboobacker's home for a brief period. Hadiya later shifted to Satyasarani's hostel for girls and completed her course. Satyasarani introduced her to Sainaba from Ernakulam and started staying with her after her father filed Habeas Corpus petition.

First order of high court

Hadiya told the court that she was not under any illegal confinement against her free will. She also told the court that she was not willing to go to her father's house. She insisted that she wanted to pursue her Islamic studies at Satyasarani.

In June last year, the Kerala High Court allowed Hadiya to stay with Sainaba. 

Later Hadiya informed the court that she had taken admission in Satyasarani and produced records of her admission in the religious institution.

Consequently, Kerala High Court dismissed the Habeas Corpus petition filed by Ashokan Mani.

Father introduces ‘terror’ angle

The June 2016 order of the Kerala High Court should have been the end of the matter. But, ex-soldier Ashokan Mani decided to file habeas corpus petition. Ironically, this time he raised terror angle!

Ashokan alleged that her daughter was converted to Islam at the behest of the ISIS. He feared that Hadiya might be taken out of India to join the ranks of Islamic State in Afghanistan.

Ashokan mentioned about two separate cases of women vanishing from Kerala allegedly to join the ISIS terrorists in Afghanistan after they were converted to Islam and married to Muslim men.

Twists and Turns

The Kerala High Court, at first, was not impressed with the reference to the ISIS. The court asked Ashokan's lawyer CK Mohanan to delete the reference to the ISIS in his petition as it was irrelevant.

But, Mohanan was insistent and argued that Kerala police were investigating a case of missing 21 persons from the state. They are suspected to have been taken to Afghanistan. A heated exchange took place in the open court between the lawyers and the bench.

Justices PN Ravindran and Justice Dama Seshadri Naidu slapped ordered contempt proceedings against lawyer Mohanan in 2016. The court pronounced him guilty in the case and sentenced him to three months imprisonment and also imposed a fine of Rs 1,000.

Ashokan assured the court that he would not engage Mohanan in future. The high court shifted Hadiya from the custody of Sainaba to SNV Sadanam, Ernakulam - a ladies' hostel.

Meanwhile, Hadiya got married to Shafeen Jahan of Kollam in December last year. The matter came up in January this year before the Kerala High Court, which was hearing the second Habeas Corpus writ filed by Ahokan.

Hadiya produced marriage certificate issued by Puthur Juma Masjid in Malappuram and marriage registration certificate by local panchayat authorities. But, the Kerala High Court has declared both the marriage and the certificates as invalid.

Why HC nullified wedding?

The court in its judgment said that the marriage was done by strangers and her parents did not participate in the function.

"Marriage being the most important decision in her (Hadiya’s) life can only be taken with the active involvement of her parents," the Kerala High Court observed.

"The marriage, which is alleged to have taken place, is a sham and is of no consequence in the eye of law. Her husband has no authority to act as the guardian,'' the court further remarked.

The Kerala High Court also directed the State Police Chief to conduct departmental inquiry against Perinthalmanna Deputy Superintendent of Police for not investigating the case properly and take appropriate action.

The court verdict said that investigation should also be carried out about the activities of Sathyasarani, a renowned Islamic educational institution at Manjeri regarding conversion of religion.

The court also had ordered an investigation into whether there was any breach on the part of the officer who had investigated the case earlier. It is to be noted that the investigating officer appointed by the same court had categorically said that the complainant’s claims were baseless.

SC hears case of HC’s invalidation of Muslim convert girl’s marriage

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