The hearing for the case of Shafin Jahan v. Asokan, also known as the Hadiya case came before the Supreme Court today in front of a bench comprising of Chief Justice, Dipak Misra, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar, and Justice D.Y. Chandrachud.
Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal representing the petitioners asked the Court to look into the questions that how in a Habeas Corpus petition, the Kerala High Court could suo moto give an order nullifying the marriage when neither of the parties had contested the marriage.
It was submitted that right to choice under Article 21 is one of the core tenants of dignity and liberty of an individual. Mr. Sibal’s primary contention laid on the question that the High Court did not have jurisdiction to consider unrelated matters, no third party can question the locus of the marriage of two consenting adults.
Justice Chandrachud observed that although the jurisdiction of the High Court cannot completely be restricted, the same is not to be exercised when two consenting adults agree to a fact. He also commented that one has to be very careful when including public law in matters as intimate as marriage.
Senior Advocate Shyam Divan, representing Hadiya’s father, submitted that in circumstances and facts of this case, the Kerala High Court was correct in holding the marriage as null and void. He emphasized that the doctrine of marriage fraud should be expanded, where fraud is deemed to have been against the public and not the private individual. He took the court through affidavits and alleged that there was a well oiled racket taking place which was bordering to trafficking.
Senior Advocate Maninder Singh, representing the National Investigation Agency argued that the investigation conducted by NIA should be looked into and then the matter be decided. The Chief Justice remarked that the NIA is free to conduct investigation into any offence, but not in the status of the marriage.
In the order delivered at 2 p.m. on Thursday(8th March) the Bench quashed the judgement of the Kerala High Court that nullified the marriage of Hadiya and Shafin Jahan. The Supreme Court order held that she is at liberty to pursue her future endeavours according to law. It was clarified that the investigation by the NIA in respect of any matter of criminality may continue in accordance with law.
The reasoned judgement will follow.
Read the order here.