Case BriefsHigh Courts

   

Bombay High Court: While granting bail to the Bhima Koregaon accused, Dr. Anand Teltumbde, the Division Bench comprising Milind N. Jadhav, A.S. Gadkari, JJ., held that NIA could not establish reasonable grounds for the Court to believe that the allegations and accusations against the accused are prima facie true. The Court observed,

“There is no material save and except calling upon us to presume that the word ‘brother Anand’ is a reference to the appellant and as such he is directly involved with the activities of CPI(M).”

The appellant, Dr. Anand Teltumbde was arraigned as accused No.10 in an FIR registered by National Investigation Agency (NIA) under Sections 120-B, 115, 121, 121-A, 124-A, 153, 201, 505(1)(b) and 34 of the Penal Code, 1860 (IPC) and under Sections 13, 16, 17, 18, 18-B, 20, 38 and 39 of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 (UAPA) regarding Bhima Koregaon incident.

Pertinently, the appellant is a renowned scholar, writer, and civil rights activist who has authored 26 books published nationally and internationally and pioneered a theoretical critique on Neoliberal Globalization vis-a-vis Dalits and other oppressed masses. At the time of his arrest, he was working at the Goa Institute of Management, as a Senior Professor.

What Happened in Bhima Koregaon?

On 31-12-2017, Bhima Koregaon Shaurya Din Prerana Abhiyan organised an event called ‘Elgaar Parishad’ in Shaniwarwada, Pune to celebrate 200th anniversary of the historic battle of Bhima Koregaon on 01-01-2018. More than 200- 250 Social organisations joined the program. During the event, mobs bearing saffron flags attacked persons travelling to and returning from Shaniwarwada Pune which resulted in large-scale violence including arson, stone pelting and it even caused death of an innocent person near Bhima Koregaon, Pune.

Allegations against the Accused

NIA alleged that the appellant is the think tank of the banned activities of the Communist Party of India (Maoist), hereinafter CPI(M), and is intellectually and ideologically connected with CPI(M). A gist of specific charges against the appellant are as follows:

a. In 2012, the appellant had attended a meet organised by Revolutionary Democratic Front (RDF), a banned organisation, and vehemently espoused the cause of reinvention of Dalit Militancy as well revolutionary resurgence under the flag of CPI(M);

b. The appellant was the General Secretary of the Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights (CPDR) and a member of Anuradha Ghandy Memorial Committee, both front organisations of CPI(M);

c. He was one of the convenors of Elgar Parishad Program and was present at the venue;

d. He attended International Conferences under the guise of academic visits to Canada, Pakistan, USA, France etc. That he used to exchange literature on ideology, training, and work strategy of CPI(M) with International Communist Organisations.

e. That he is the real elder brother of wanted accused Milind Teltumbde, CCM and Secretary of Maharashtra – Madhya Pradesh – Chhattisgarh (MMC) Zone of CPI(M). That he met his brother during his urban area visits and shared literature of Maoist ideology collected by him during International Conferences;

f. He took efforts to release one Murugan, a CPI(M) cadre from jail as well as for release of G.N. Saibaba, another convicted accused in a CPI(M) related case.

Analysis of Evidence

NIA had provided five documents and three witnesses to buttress the charges levelled against the appellant. The Court has examined each document meticulously to reach the following findings:

1st document: This letter states that the Central Committee (CC) is pleased with the progress that (Comrade Anand) has made on the Dalit campaign and it has agreed to allocate him additional funds (10L yearly) to organise International Seminars and lectures on Dalit issues. That CC has sent funds for (Comrade Anand’s) upcoming Human Rights convention in Paris while calling upon coordination with friends in America and France and reiterates to keep the fire ablaze. NIA contended that the term ‘dear Comrade Anand’ has been used for the appellant which establishes that he is an active member of CPI(M). NIA further pressed that so far as Appellant’s visit to Paris and Budapest on 09-04-2018 is concerned, he was on leave, and expenses were not incurred by the Institute and hence it is to be deduced that the expenses were borne by CPI(M).

Opinion of the Court: After reading of aforesaid letter along with the letter dated 10-08-2020 issued by the Goa Institute of Management, the Court opined that prima facie, the appellant had travelled extensively from 11-07-2016 to 05-03-2020 while on leave and being out of office on his own expenses on at least 64 occasions. Submission of NIA that contents of 1st document prima facie invoke provisions of Section 15 of the UAP Act is not acceptable and palatable when the letter is read as it is unless there is any other material to corroborate and support such a theory. The Court noted that,

“It is seen that appellant is a man of intellectual prominence in the field of Dalit ideology/movement and merely because he is the elder brother of wanted accused Milind Teltumbde who had gone underground 30 years ago to espouse the cause of CPI(M) cannot be a sole ground to indict the Appellant and link him to the activities of CPI(M).”

2nd document: The second letter is addressed by Comrade M to Comrade Surendra, which refers to ‘Comrade Anand’. The letter which is typed on the letterhead of CPI(M), Central Committee, states that ‘Comrade Anand’ has made a few good suggestions.

Opinion of the Court: There is nothing more in the letter to suggest complicity of the appellant, provided taken at the highest that the word ‘Comrade Anand’ refers to him, which is vehemently denied by the appellant. Hence, the Court held on reading the letter prima facie it cannot be presumed that the appellant is actively involved in the work of the CIP(M).

3rd document: The letter relating to fact-finding team to gauge the truth about fake encounters in Gadchiroli which is addressed by one ‘R’ to ‘Comrade Prakash’, states that “Anand has agreed to co-ordinate the whole thing”. According to NIA “Anand” denotes the involvement of the appellant which squarely falls within the provisions of Section 15 of the UPA Act.

Opinion of the Court: Prima facie reading of the letter does not establish any case against the appellant unless there is other material to show his nexus to the alleged activity.

4th document: The name ‘Anand’ appears in the letter addressed by ‘Comrade M’ to ‘Comrade Rona’ also. The relevant portion reads thus: “.……. please speak with brother Anand, inform him to send reports through Comrade Manoj………” NIA emphasized that ‘brother Anand’ appearing in this letter addressed by ‘Comrade M’ (Milind Teltumbde, the wanted accused and younger brother of Appellant) clearly drives home the point that it is none other than Appellant.

Opinion of the Court: The Court opined that prima facie, reading of the letter, does not indicate any role of the appellant, especially when the letter has not been recovered and seized from him. The Court observed that even assuming at the highest that reference in this letter i.e., ‘brother Anand’ is to the appellant himself, the prosecution still has to show the nexus and link of the appellant with the present crime or any specific overt act. The Court expressed,

This letter refers to names of 17 persons in all, including “brother Anand”. Some names are also with their phone numbers. Not all of these 17 persons have been indicted in the present crime. If NIA’s argument is to be accepted, then the statement/sentence referring to some of the said names appears to be more serious.”

5th document: The last document referred to and relied upon by NIA is an “account statement” which bears the heading—”Accounts2k17 PARTY FUND RECEIVED IN LAST YEAR FROM C.C.” NIA has particularly emphasised on “Anand T. === R === 90 T from Surendra (Though Milind)” part of the document. According to NIA the name Anand T. is a reference to the appellant having received Rs.90,000 from Surendra (Surendra Gadling, Accused No.3) through Milind (wanted accused and younger brother of Appellant).

Opinion of the Court: Noting the fallacy in the argument of NIA, the Court expressed that if Anand T. is the appellant himself and he received Rs.90,000, even in that case it cannot be linked to the statement in the earlier letter dated 02-01-2018 since the account statement pertains to the year 2016 and or 2017. Further, the document is unsigned and has been recovered from the laptop of one of the co-accused. Hence, at this prima facie stage, the Court cannot presume that the appellant received Rs.90,000.

Additionally, the Court observed that one such seized document which contained the list of Central Committee Members of CPI(M) group along with their details and photographs for the year 2017, suggests that the appellant is not a member of this C.C. However, at Serial No.4 one Katkam Sudarshan @ Anand @ Mahesh @ Bhaskar appears as Central Committee and Polit Bureau Member of CPI(M). Hence, the Court opined that the reference to the name ‘Anand’ can also be to this member as argued by Appellant; and prima facie, such a probability cannot be ruled out, unless there is material shown to the contrary.

Findings and Conclusion

After appreciating the material on record as well as the statements of three key witness against the appellant, the Court held that prima facie, the prosecution was unable to establish that provisions of Sections 16 and 18 can be invoked at this stage against the appellant. Hence, the Court held that on reading the chargesheet and other material on record, prima facie, it could not be inferred that the appellant has involved himself in a ‘terrorist act’. Additionally, the Court remarked,

“In the present case the offence and crime related to the Bhima Koregaon incident resulted in the death of one person. On reading the draft charges and the chargesheet qua the Appellant, we prima facie find that NIA has not investigated or made any investigation in respect of this aspect. However, it is their case that the banned terrorist organization CPI(M) used the Elgar Parishad.”

Further, considering that the appellant has no criminal antecedents, and he has been behind bars for more than two years and half, the Court opined that a case for grant of bail has been made out. Hence, the impugned order of the Special Judge, Greater Bombay dismissing the bail application of the appellant has been set aside and the appellant was directed to be released on bail on the following conditions:

a. The appellant to execute a PR bond of Rs.1,00,000 with one or more solvent local sureties in the like amount.

b. He shall not tamper with the evidence of prosecution nor influence the prosecution witnesses;

c. He shall furnish his contact numbers, both mobile and landline, and permanent residential address, before his actual release from jail, to the Investigating Officer and the Special Court before which his case is pending;

d. He shall attend the concerned police station where he resides, initially for a period of one year, once in a fortnight i.e., on every 1st and 16th of each English Calendar month and thereafter on every first Monday of the month between 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon the till the conclusion of trial;

e. He shall not leave the jurisdiction of the State of Maharashtra and if he desires to travel within India, he shall seek prior leave and permission of the Trial Court;

f. He shall deposit his passport held by him before his actual release from jail, with the designated Special Court.

Pertinently, on the request of the prosecution to stay the operation and implementation of this order to enable NIA to challenge it before the Supreme Court, the Court had directed that the order granting bail to the appellant will remain stayed for a period of one week.

[Anand Teltumbde v. National Investigation Agency, 2022 SCC OnLine Bom 5174, decided on 18-11-2022]


Advocates who appeared in this case :

Mr. Mihir Desai, Senior Advocate i/by Ms. Devyani Kulkarni for Appellant;

Mr. Sandesh Patil a/w. Mr. Chintan Shah, Mr. Shrikant Sonakawade and Mr. Prithviraj Gole;

Advocate for Respondent No.1 – NIA;

Ms. J.S. Lohakare, APP for Respondent No.2 – State;

Mr. Pradip Bhale, Dy. S.P. NIA present;


*Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has put this report together.

Case BriefsSupreme Court

“While the mountains of Himalayas spell tranquillity, yet blood is shed every day.”

Supreme Court: In a major verdict, the 3-judge bench of NV Ramana, R Subhash Reddy and BR Gavai, JJ has asked J&K administration to review all orders imposing curbs on telecom and internet services in the state in a week and put them in public domain.

“The existing Suspension Rules neither provide for a periodic review nor a time limitation for an order issued under the Suspension Rules. Till this gap is filled, the Review Committee constituted under Rule 2(5) of the Suspension Rules must conduct a periodic review within seven working days of the previous review, in terms of the requirements under Rule 2(6).”

Stating that it’s limited scope, in the matter wherein the two sides have shown two different pictures which are diametrically opposite and factually irreconcilable, was to strike a balance between the liberty and security concerns so that the right to life is secured and enjoyed in the best possible manner, the Court said,

“It is not our forte to answer whether it is better to be free than secure or be secure rather than free. However, we are here only to ensure that citizens are provided all the rights and liberty to the highest extent in a given situation while ensuring security at the same time.”

Fundamental rights under part III and restrictions thereof

  • Expression through the internet has gained contemporary relevance and is one of the major means of information diffusion. Therefore, the freedom of speech and expression through the medium of internet is an integral part of Article 19(1)(a) and accordingly, any restriction on the same must be in accordance with Article 19(2) of the Constitution.
  • Internet is also a very important tool for trade and commerce. Such a right of trade through internet also fosters consumerism and availability of choice. Therefore, the freedom of trade and commerce through the medium of the internet is also constitutionally protected under Article 19(1)(g), subject to the restrictions provided under Article 19(6).

Right to access internet as a fundamental right

The Court refused to offer views on the said issue as none of the counsels had argued for declaring the right to access the internet as a fundamental right.

Publication of orders on Internet shut down

The Court noticed that although the Suspension Rules under Section 7 of the Telegraph Act does not provide for publication or notification of the orders, a settled principle of law, and of natural   justice, is that an order, particularly one that affects lives, liberty and property of people, must be made available.

“Any law which demands compliance of the people requires to be notified directly and reliably. This is the case regardless of whether the parent statute or rule prescribes the same or not.

It further added that complete broad suspension of telecom services, be it the Internet or otherwise, being a drastic measure, must be considered by the State only if ‘necessary’ and ‘unavoidable’. In furtherance of the same, the State must assess the existence of an alternate less intrusive remedy.

Restrictions under Section 144 CrPC

“As emergency does not shield the actions of Government completely; disagreement does not justify destabilisation; the beacon of rule of law shines always.”

Explaining the concepts of ‘law and order’, ‘public order’ and ‘security of State’, the Court said that these are distinct legal standards and that the Magistrate must tailor the restrictions depending on the nature of the situation. The Magistrate cannot apply a straitjacket formula without assessing the gravity of the prevailing circumstances; the restrictions must be proportionate to the situation concerned.

“If two families quarrel over irrigation water, it might breach law and order, but in a situation where two communities fight over the same, the situation might transcend into a public order situation. However, it has to be noted that a similar approach cannot be taken to remedy the aforesaid two   distinct situations.”

Freedom of press

When Anuradha Bhasin argued before the Court that she was not able to publish her newspaper Kashmir Times from 06­08­2019 to 11­10­2019, the Court noticed that no evidence was put forth to establish that such other individuals were also restricted in publishing newspapers in the area.

“Without such evidence having been placed on record, it would be impossible to distinguish a legitimate claim of chilling effect from a mere emotive argument for a self­serving purpose.”

The Court, however, said that responsible Governments are required to respect the freedom of the press at all times. Journalists are to be accommodated in reporting and there is no justification for allowing a sword of Damocles to hang over the press indefinitely.

Operative order

  1. The J&K State/competent authorities are directed to publish all orders in force and any future orders under Section 144, Cr.P.C and for suspension of telecom services, including internet, to enable the affected persons to challenge it before the High Court or appropriate forum.
  2. Freedom of speech and expression and the freedom to practice any profession or carry on any trade, business or occupation over the medium of internet enjoys constitutional protection under Article 19(1)(a) and Article 19(1)(g). The restriction upon such fundamental rights should be in consonance with the mandate under Article 19 (2) and (6) of the Constitution, inclusive of the test of proportionality.
  3. An order suspending internet services indefinitely is impermissible under the Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public Service) Rules, 2017. Any order suspending internet issued under the Suspension Rules, must adhere to the principle of proportionality and must not extend beyond necessary duration.
  4. Any order suspending internet under the Suspension Rules is subject to judicial review based on the parameters set out herein.
  5. The existing Suspension Rules neither provide for a periodic review nor a time limitation for an order issued under the Suspension Rules. Till this gap is filled, the Review Committee constituted under Rule 2(5) of the Suspension Rules must conduct a periodic review within seven working days of the previous review, in terms of the requirements under Rule 2(6). Hence, J&K State/competent authorities must review all orders suspending internet services forthwith.
  6. Orders not in accordance with the law laid down above, must be revoked. Further, in future, if there is a necessity to pass fresh orders, the law laid down herein must be followed.
  7. In any case, the State/concerned authorities are directed to consider forthwith allowing government websites, localized/limited e­banking facilities, hospitals services and other essential services, in those regions, wherein the internet services are not likely to be restored immediately.
  8. The power under Section 144, Cr.P.C., being remedial as well as preventive, is exercisable not only where there exists present danger, but also when there is an apprehension of danger. However, the danger contemplated should be in the nature of an “emergency” and for the purpose of preventing obstruction and annoyance or injury to any person lawfully employed. Hence, the power under Section 144, Cr.P.C cannot be used to suppress legitimate expression of opinion or grievance or exercise of any democratic rights.
  9. An order passed under Section 144, Cr.P.C. should state the material facts to enable judicial review of the same. The power should be exercised in a bona fide and reasonable manner, and the same should be passed by relying on the material facts, indicative of application of mind. This will enable judicial scrutiny of the aforesaid order.
  10. While exercising the power under Section 144, Cr.P.C., the Magistrate is duty bound to balance the rights and restrictions based on the principles of proportionality and thereafter, apply the least intrusive measure.
  11. Repetitive orders under Section 144, Cr.P.C. would be an abuse of power.
  12. The J&K State/competent authorities are directed to review forthwith the need for continuance of any existing orders passed under Section 144, Cr.P.C in accordance with law laid down above.

The 3-judge bench had reserved the judgment on November 27, 2019 on a batch of pleas including that of Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad challenging the restriction imposed in the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir following abrogation of provisions of Article 370.

The bench heard the petitions filed by various petitioners including Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, Kashmir Times editor Anuradha Bhasin and others. The petitions were filed after the central government scrapped Article 370 in August and bifurcated Jammu and Kashmir into two UTs — Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh earlier. Following this, phone lines and the internet were blocked in the region.

On August 5, the Centre had abrogated Articles 370 and 35A of the Indian Constitution and the Parliament had passed the Jammu and Kashmir (Reorganisation) Act, 2019, bifurcating the former state into two Union Territories – Jammu and Kashmir and Kashmir with legislature and Ladakh without one. Following this, a batch of petitions was filed in the top court challenging the move.

[Anuradha Bhasin v. Union of India, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 25, decided on 10.01.2020]

Hot Off The PressNews

Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of N V Ramana, R Subhash Reddy, and B R Gavai, JJ has reserved the judgment on a batch of pleas including that of Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad challenging the restriction imposed in the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir following abrogation of provisions of Article 370.

The bench heard the petitions filed by various petitioners including Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, Kashmir Times editor Anuradha Bhasin and others. The petitions were filed after the central government scrapped Article 370 in August and bifurcated Jammu and Kashmir into two UTs — Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh earlier. Following this, phone lines and the internet were blocked in the region.

On August 5, the Centre had abrogated Articles 370 and 35A of the Indian Constitution and the Parliament had passed the Jammu and Kashmir (Reorganisation) Act, 2019, bifurcating the former state into two Union Territories – Jammu and Kashmir and Kashmir) with legislature and Ladakh without one. Following this, a batch of petitions was filed in the top court challenging the move.

(Source: ANI)

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Partially upholding the validity of the Maharashtra Prohibition of Obscene Dance in Hotels, Restaurant and Bar Rooms and Protection of Dignity of Women (Working therein) Act, 2016 and the Rules made thereunder, the bench of Dr. AK Sikri and Ashok Bhushan held that the State must have an “open mind” in matters relating to staging dance performances in dance bars. It said:

“State cannot take exception to staging dance performances per se. It appears from the history of legislative amendments made from time to time that the respondents have somehow developed the notion that such performances in the dance bars do not have moralistic basis.”

Below is the list of some important provisions that were struck down in the 100-pages long verdict:

WHAT

WHY

Giving the tips only by adding them in the bills

State cannot impose a particular manner of tipping as it is entirely a matter between an employer and performer on the one hand and the performer and the visitor on the other hand.
Licence to person of “good character”

Provision proving that a person is entitled to obtain or hold licence who possesses a ‘good character’ and ‘antecedents’ and he should not have any history of ‘criminal record’ in the past ten years, struck down for being vague.

1 KM distance from educational and religious institutions

Such a condition does not take into account the ground realities particularly in the city of Mumbai where it would be difficult to find any place which is 1 km away from either an education institution or a religious institution.
Monthly Salary to performers

The condition of employing such persons on monthly salary does not stand the judicial scrutiny. This shows that such persons are to be employed in a particular manner i.e. on monthly basis.

Prohibition on serving of alcohol in the bar room where dances are staged

This is totally disproportionate, unreasonable and arbitrary. State is more influenced by moralistic overtones under wrong presumption that persons after consuming alcohol would misbehave with the dancers. If this is so, such a presumption would be equally applicable to bar rooms where the alcohol is served by women waitresses.

Installing of CCTV Cameras

It is totally inappropriate and amounts to invasion of privacy and is, thus, violative of Articles 14, 19(1)(a) and 21 of the Constitution

The Court, however, upheld the following provisions:

  • Provision disallowing throwing or showering coins and currency notes on the performers.
  • Provision relating to employer and performer entering into a written contract as well as depositing of the remuneration in the bank accounts
  • Provision prescribing timing of such dance performances only between 6 pm to 11:30 pm

Before parting with the judgment, the Court also noticed that many conditions were stipulated in the Act for obtaining the licence, which are virtually impossible to perform. On this, the Court said:

“It is this reason that not a single establishment has been issued licence under the impugned Act even when it was passed in the year 2014. In fact, after the amendment in Maharashtra Police Act in 2005, no licences have been granted for dance bars. Thus, even when the impugned Act appears to be regulatory in nature, the real consequences and effect is to prohibit such dance bars. The State, thereby, is aiming to achieve something indirectly which it could not do directly. Such a situation is beyond comprehension and cannot be countenanced.”

The Court said that it hoped that after this judgment, the applications for grant of licence shall now be considered more objectively and with open mind so that there is no complete ban on staging dance performances at designated places prescribed in the Act. [Indian Hotel and Restaurant Association v. State of Maharashtra, 2019 SCC OnLine SC 41, decided on 17.01.2019]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Terming the Hadiya case as the perfect example of “patriarchal autocracy and possibly self ­obsession with the feeling that a female is a chattel”, the 3-judge bench of Dipak Misra, CJ and AM Khanwilkar and Dr. DY Chandrachud, JJ set aside the Kerala High Court verdict and held that the High Court has completely erred by taking upon itself the burden of annulling the marriage between two consenting adults, namely, Hadiya and Shafin Jahan.

Below are the important facts of the case:

  • 24-year-old Akhila alias Hadiya, had converted to Islam after staying with 2 of her friends, Jaseena and Faseena, while completing her Bachelor of Homeopathic Medicine and Surgery (BHMS) degree.
  • Hadiya refused to return to her father Asokan’s place after he filed a writ of habeas corpus before Kerala High Court in January, 2016 on the apprehension that his daughter was likely to be transported out of the country.
  • Hadiya continued to stay at the house of her aforementioned friends. She expressed her desire to complete her House   Surgeoncy   at  the  Shivaraj Homeopathic   Medical   College, Salem which has a hostel for women   where   she   was   willing   to   reside   for   the   purpose   of completing her House Surgeoncy.
  • On 21.12.2016, Hadiya appeared before the High Court and a statement was made that she had entered into marriage with Shafin Jahan. High Court noted that the marriage was totally unexpected.
  • High Court in the impugned judgment held that a girl aged 24 years is weak and vulnerable and capable   of   being   exploited   in   many ways and thereafter, the Court, exercising the parens patriae jurisdiction, observed that it was concerned with the welfare of the girl of her age and hence, the custody of Akhila alias Hadiya should be given to her parents.

The Kerala High Court allowed her to complete her studies but held:

“Her marriage being the most important decision in her life, can also be taken only with the active involvement of her parents. The marriage which is alleged to have been performed is a sham and is of no consequence in the eye of law.”

CJI, writing for himself and Khanwilkar, J, held that non­-acceptance of Hadiya’s choice would simply mean creating discomfort to the constitutional right by a Constitutional Court which is meant to be the protector of fundamental rights. Such a situation cannot remotely be conceived.

He wrote:

“The exposé of facts in the present case depicts that story giving it a colour of different narrative. It is different since the State that is expected to facilitate the enjoyment of legal rights of a citizen has also supported the cause of a father, an obstinate one, who has endeavoured immensely in not allowing his daughter to make her own choice in adhering to a faith and further making Everestine effort to garrotte her desire to live with the man with whom she has entered into wedlock.”

Chandrachud, J also came down heavily upon the Kerala High Court for following an erroneous approach and writing down a separate but concurring judgment, said:

“The schism between Hadiya and her father may be unfortunate. But it was no part of the jurisdiction of the High Court to decide what it considered to be a ‘just’ way of life or ‘correct’ course of living for Hadiya. She has absolute autonomy over her person. Hadiya appeared before the High Court and stated that she was not under illegal confinement. There was no warrant for the High Court to proceed further in the exercise of its jurisdiction under Article 226.”

The Court, however, permitted the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to continue the investigation in respect of any matter of criminality. However, the validity of the marriage between Shafin Jahan and Hadiya shall not form the subject matter of the investigation. The Court made it clear that “nothing contained in the interim order of this Court will be construed as empowering the investigating agency to interfere in the lives which the young couple seeks to lead as law abiding citizens.”

The Court had passed the operative order in the present matter on 08.03.2018.

[Shafin Jahan v. Asokan K.M.,  2018 SCC OnLine SC 343, decided on 09.04.2018]