‘Educated adults choosing their life partners is the way forward to reduce caste and community tensions’; SC comes to the aid of a young couple facing “threats from the elders”

Supreme Court: In a case where two educated consenting adults had got married to each other without the consent of their parents, the bench of Sanjay Kishan Kaul* and Hrishikesh Roy, JJ held 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.”

Background

Santosh is an M.Tech from NIT, Tiruchirapalli and is working as a Lecturer in KLES (Karnataka Lingayat Education Society) Pre-University College, Bailhongal, while Laxmi, is an M.A.B.Ed., working as an Assistant Professor in Jain College of Engineering, Belagavi, Karnataka. They developed liking for each other during these assignments. However, there was resistance from the parents of Laxmi, though the parents of Santosh were willing for the matrimony of both the well qualified petitioners who are majors and Hindu by religion.

After Laxmi had, without informing her parents, travelled from Hubli to Bangalore and thereafter to Delhi in order to get married to Santosh, her parents had filed a complaint of a missing person. Laxmi, however, sent her marriage certificate to her parents through whatsapp on 15.10.2020 in which she revealed the factum of marriage to Santosh. She also spoke to the investigating officer and informed that she had already married Santosh and was residing with him. But the IO instead insisted that she should appear before the Murgod police station to record a statement so that the case can be closed. She then sent a letter to the IO stating that she was married to Santosh and there was threat from her parents and thus, was unable to visit the police station.

Thereafter, the IO stated that they would like to close the case, but they wanted her to get her statement recorded at the police station. The IO also stated that the family members may file a case against her that she has stolen things from the home and if an FIR is filed, there would be a negative mark against Santosh and they would have to arrest him which would be problematic for his job also.

What the Court said

The choice of an individual is an inextricable part of dignity, for dignity cannot be thought of where there is erosion of choice. Such a right or choice is not is not expected to succumb to the concept of “class honour” or “group thinking.”

The Court said that the case was handled does not reflect very well on the police authorities or the IO, the marriage certificate having been received by him and the conversation already been held with Laxmi where she clearly stated that she was married to Santosh and that she was feeling threatened and apprehensive of coming to the police station.

If the IO could have visited the residence of Santosh, he could very well have recorded the statement of Laxmi rather than insisting and calling upon the petitioners to come to the local police station at Karnataka. Not only that, he undoubtedly sought to compel Laxmi to come and record the statement at police station on the threat of possibility of a false case being registered by her parents against her husband and the consequent action of the police which would result in the arrest of her husband.

“We strongly deprecate the conduct of the IO in adopting these tactics and the officer must be sent for counseling as to how to manage such cases.”

The Court also noticed that both the parties are well educated.

“Educated younger boys and girls are choosing their life partners which, in turn is a departure from the earlier norms of society where caste and community play a major role. Possibly, this is the way forward where caste and community tensions will reduce by such inter marriage but in the meantime these youngsters face threats from the elders and the Courts have been coming to the aid of these youngsters.”

[Laxmibai Chandaragi v. State of Karnataka, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 85, decided on 08.02.2021]


*Judgment by: Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul 

Know Thy Judge| Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul

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