Madhya Pradesh High Court | Conversion for marriage – “A serious threat to sanctity attached to marriages recognised under personal laws”

Madhya Pradesh High Court

Madhya Pradesh High Court | A division bench comprising of Rohit Arya* and Milind Ramesh Phadke, JJ., held that issuance of conversion certificate by Arya Samaj for conversion of a Muslim girl to Hindu religion was in violation of S. 5 of Madhya Pradesh Dharma Swatantrya Adhiniyam, 1968 hence “null and void” and ordered the Senior Superintendent of Police, Ghaziabad (U.P.) to investigate the matter and take corrective measures as per law.

Factual Matrix

In 2019, the petitioner, Rahul and his wife, Hina Khan eloped from Shivpuri, M.P. and married at the Arya Samaj Vivah Mandir Trust (“Vivah Mandir”) in Ghaziabad, U.P. The marriage was solemnized after Hina Khan, a Muslim converted to Hinduism by signing an affidavit in the presence of the temple’s president. On returning to their native place, Shivpuri, Hina Khan applied for Police Protection via petition in Madhya Pradesh High Court. On the High Court’s order, the couple appeared before area sub-divisional magistrate who handed Hina Khan’s custody to a Nari Niketan in Gwalior after noticing that she was three months short from attainting majority.

In 2021, the petitioner filed a petition seeking release of his ‘wife’ who was illegally confined by police authorities in a Nari Niketan in Gwalior. The petition was converted into an inquiry about conversion of religion and legality of marriage.

Issue Raised

  1. “Whether a self-styled Trust allegedly registered as Arya Samaj Vivah Mandir Trust can solemnize marriage between a Hindu boy and a Muslim girl?
  2. Whether the said Trust has authority in law to issue marriage certificate?
  3. Whether on a mere declaration on affidavit or a notarized affidavit the Trust can convert religion of a Muslim girl as Hindu?
  4. Whether respondent No.6 is competent to issue a certificate of conversion as reflected from page 19 of the compilation.
  5. Whether the alleged Arya Samaj Vivah Mandir Trust by itself can be held to be an Arya Samaj Mandir which is solely for the purposes of solemnization of marriage having no affiliation or permission by the State/National body of the Arya Samaj Mandir?
  6. Whether such kind of vulnerable activity of so called Arya Samaj Mandir has serious impact on public order disturbing social fabric of the society?
  7. Whether an extensive inquiry by a senior police official is warranted into the conduct and affairs of the aforesaid alleged Arya Samaj Vivah Mandir Trust Ghaziabad as the vulnerability of the alleged Act of conversion of the marriage (religion) is well evident from the fact that the petitioner and Ms. Hina Khan, residents of Shivpuri are said to have solemnized the marriage in Ghaziabad (U.P.) and there is no identification or verification of their status by known persons?”

Counsel’s contention

The preliminary objection raised by the Arya Samaj Vivah Mandir Trust was that of jurisdiction of Madhya Pradesh High Court as the marriage was solemnized in Uttar Pradesh. Secondly, the trust contended that Hina Khan’s Aadhaar card had indicated that she was an adult, and she submitted an affidavit to confirm that her conversion to Hinduism and marriage was out of her free will.

Mr. M.P.S. Raghuvanshi (Additional Advocate General), Counsel for the State accused the trust of illegally issuing certificates of marriage and religious conversion. He submitted that “such activity of conversion from one religion to another is not carried out in temples; it is a serious matter and potential threat to peace and tranquility in the area. The abortive act of conversion by such self-styled Vivah Mandirs involves people from Hindu and Muslim community and may cause serious law and order problem

Mr. M.P.S. Raghuvanshi also contended that “hundreds of indiscriminate marriage certificates are issued to young boys and girls in a surreptitious manner by such marriage shops on payment of huge amount without verification of their age, identity and whereabouts. No record is maintained.” and prayed for high level enquiry into the affairs of the Arya Samaj Vivah Mandir Trust.

Court’s Observation

The Court relied on Alchemist Ltd. v. State Bank of Sikkim, (2007) 11 SCC 335, where it was held that “one has to consider whether such fact constitutes a material, essential, or integral part of the cause of action. It is no doubt true that even if a small fraction of the cause of action arises within the jurisdiction of the Court, the Court would have territorial jurisdiction to entertain the suit/petition. Nevertheless, it must be a ‘part of cause of action’, nothing less than that” and rejected the contention of Trust regarding jurisdiction of Madhya Pradesh High Court on the ground that the couple belonged to Madhya Pradesh and when the habeas corpus petition was filed they were residing in the State.

The Court stated that Arya Samaj was only empowered to perform wedding rituals according to Hindu rites between two Arya Samajis but cannot convert someone from one religion to another and issue marriage certificates. The Court held that the issuance of conversion certificate by Arya Samaj was in violation of S. 5 of Madhya Pradesh Dharma Swatantrya Adhiniyam, 1968.

The Court observed that trust had posed a “serious threat to public order and social fabric” and trust’s actions had the potential to trigger mass unrest and communal tensions.

The Court held that the conversion certificate and marriage certificate are without any authority of law and hence “null and void” and said,

“…the said activities of respondent no.6/ Vivah Mandir, tantamount to running marriage shops on commercial lines …The same are a serious threat to the sanctity attached to marriages recognized under personal laws, particularly Hindu Marriage Act.

The Court ordered verification of existence, constitution and members of the Trust and whether they are involved in any alleged activities and take corrective measures as per law.

On the issue of release of the women from shelter home, the Court observed that since she is an adult, she has the right to choose her life and who to live with. The Court asked the authorities to let her speak with her parents through video-conference.

[Rahul v. State of M.P., 2022 SCC OnLine MP 2356, judgement dated 06.09.2022]

Advocates who appeared in this case:

Mr. Suresh Agrawal, Counsel for the Petitioner;

Mr. M.P.S. Raghuvanshi (Additional Advocate General) and Mr. Rajesh Shukla (Dy. Advocate General), Counsel for the Respondents/State;

Mr. Balwant Singh Billowria and Mr. Prabhat Kumar Singh, Counsel for the Respondent No. 6;

Mr. Faisal Ali Shah, Amicus Curiae.

*Ritu Singh, Editorial Assistant has put this report together.

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