Is Hadiya, the 25-year-old Kerala woman who has been the media’s focus in recent months for her conversion to Islam and marrying a Muslim, under pressure from her well-wishers? Otherwise, why would she file a fresh affidavit in the Supreme Court praying that she be allowed to live with her husband and complain that she is under police surveillance?
On 28 November 2017, Hadiya was ordered by the Supreme Court to resume her studies and complete her house surgeon training that she was supposed to take up at the homeopathy college in Salem. What Hadiya and her well-wishers ought to know is that the Supreme Court was hearing her case, called her to depose before it and got her off from her house – a key demand in her and her husband Shafin Jehan’s petition.
The house surgeon training is for six months and even before completing it, what is the need for a fresh affidavit? Hadiya’s father has filed a counter-affidavit saying his daughter has been trapped and trained by a well-oiled machinery.
On 23 January this year, the apex court bench, comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice A M Khanwilkar and Justice D Y Chandrachud, said the legitimacy of the marriage of the 24-year-old woman cannot be questioned, though the National Investigation Agency can continue its probe. When this is the case, why at all a fresh affidavit? This leads to questions over Hadiya’s motive.
No one disputes the fact that a major can choose their partner. But this fresh affidavit should make the honourable Supreme Court judges to look at a crucial remark that the Kerala High Court made while nullifying Hadiya’s marriage in May 2016. The whole issue here is about the circumstances in which the wedding took place and the claims made by Hadiya and Jahan.
For the record, Hadiya’s father Ashokan had initially approached the Kerala High Court in January 2016 with a habeas corpus petition after he was unhappy with developments relating to her. After joining a homeopathy college in Salem, she began to show changes, leaning towards Islam. Hadiya appeared before the Kerala High Court and declared that she wanted to pursue studies in religion. She told the High Court that she wanted to study at Sathya Sarini, an institution that has gained notoriety as a training centre for women wanting to convert to Islam, in Malappuram. The court, while disposing of her father’s petition, allowed her to pursue religious studies under the care of a woman named Zainaba, who is also under suspicion for her role in the marriages of non-Muslim women with Muslim men. (During this hearing, Hadiya had submitted an affidavit that she was undergoing house surgeon training for a homeopathy course. In May 2017, the court said in its ruling that she made a false statement. The court also found her calling herself Aadiya in one of her affidavits.)
Things took a dramatic turn in July when 21 persons went missing from Kerala and reports said they had joined the Islamic State (IS) by going to Syria or Afghanistan. Ashokan approached the court again with a similar petition in August 2016. In his petition, he expressed fear that Hadiya could have been taken to one of the IS destinations. The Kerala High Court took up the petition on 17 August 2016. As the High Court took up the petition and directed the government authorities to ensure that Hadiya is not taken out of India, it found that she had been relocated to some other place. Just as the case was being adjourned for the day, Hadiya appeared before the court and pleaded that she be allowed to continue under Zainaba’s guardianship. Ashokan argued that his daughter had been missing from Zainaba’s place for a month and she shouldn’t be allowed to go with her guardian. The court, then, ordered Hadiya to be put in a ladies’ hostel and ordered a thorough inquiry on why she went missing.
On 27 September, another bench of the High Court took up the case when Hadiya filed a written statement that said since she didn’t have a passport, there was no question of her going to another country. She reiterated her desire to live under the care of Zainaba. The bench then allowed Hadiya to live under Zainaba’s guardianship.
After this, the case took many twists and turns. On 14 November, the court asked the authorities to find out if Hadiya had finished her homeopathy course as Ashokan’s lawyer had said that she had not completed it. Proceedings continued on 14, 19, and 21 December when the court was in for a shock. (The Supreme Court should, in fact, scrutinise these events since, in the words of the Kerala High Court judges, it was perturbed over “subterfuge practiced” and found discrepancies in Hadiya’s claims during this period.)
On 19 December, authorities told the court that Hadiya, who did not appear in court that day, had not completed her course and not acquired the competency to practice homeopathy. Then, Hadiya’s lawyer told the court that his client was willing to undergo house surgeon training at the Salem college. Ashokan said he would bear the expenses of his daughter’s training. Before the court gave its order, it found fault with Hadiya’s documents claiming that she was a trainee under a homeopathic medical practitioner, Dr Sameer Pookkayil, for a payment of Rs 2,000 a month to meet her day-to-day expenses. The court wondered:
We fail to understand how the detenue (Hadiya), who has not obtained a degree in homeopathy can be permitted to train under him. The detenue has admittedly not completed her house surgeoncy or obtained eligibility to practice.Justices K Surendra Mohan and K Abraham Mathew
The court expressed dissatisfaction on Hadiya continuing to be under the care of a stranger, Zainaba. The judges said Hadiya must move to a more acceptable place. Since Ashokan was willing to bear the expenses and ready to escort her to the homeopathy medical college, the judges asked Hadiya and her father to appear before them on 21 December at 10.15am. The judges said they will pass orders that day on how Hadiya should be taken to the homeopathy college in Salem.
But on 21 December, Hadiya appeared with a young man, who her lawyer claimed to be her husband. Her lawyer told the court that they both got married on 19 December per Muslim rites with the wedding being conducted by the Kazi of Puthoor Juma Masjid in the presence of relatives of both families at Zainaba’s house. The lawyer also produced the marriage certificate. The judges, however, said they were perturbed at the “subterfuge practiced” and the turn of events was contrary to the submissions made by Hadiya’s lawyer.
The judges further remarked:
Since the marriage of Ms Akhila was a totally unexpected event, we perused the documents produced before us, noticed the discrepancies therein, noted the necessity of ascertaining the veracity of the statements made, and recorded our dissatisfaction at the manner in which the entireexercise was accomplished. This Court noted in the said order that not even an indication of the marriage was given to us at the time of passing the orderdated 19.12.2016, though the alleged marriage was also on the same day. We also expressed our dissatisfaction at the conduct of the detenue (Hadiya), the 7th respondent and others, who were involved.Justices K Surendra Mohan and K Abraham Mathew
The court then came up with another series of orders including a probe into all details of the marriage. When the case came up for further hearing in January 2017, the government pleader told the court that the marriage was conducted to scuttle the jurisdiction of the court.
The judges also said that they failed to understand who the relatives of Hadiya were who attended the wedding (Ashokan denied he had any information of it) and the organisation that issued the marriage certificate. (The court was handed only a photocopy of the certificate!) The court also found fault with the marriage certificate spelling the name of Shafin Jahan as Shafin Jehan and naming Hadiya’s mother as Akhila Asokan (Akhila is Hadiya’s original name). The government argued that the marriage went through after the court’s order on 14, 19 December and Hadiya could have been misled into marrying Jahan.
The judges observed that they were dissatisfied with the way Hadiya’s wedding was performed despite the court relying on her credentials and assurance. They ordered for her to be put up at a ladies’ hostel saying:
Considering the manner in which the marriage has been conducted, the secrecy surrounding the said transaction and also the hurried manner in which the whole exercise was completed, the entire episode is shrouded in suspicion. Unless the suspicion is cleared the detenue (Hadiya) cannot be permitted to go with the person who is seen to be accompanying her now.Justices K Surendra Mohan and K Abraham Mathew
An enquiry was also ordered into the conduct of the wedding and the background of Jahan. When the case came up for hearing again on 6 January 2017, it expressed its dissatisfaction with the police report.
“There is nothing on record to indicate that, either the detenue or Shafin Jahan had any acquaintance with each other before the marriage that is alleged to have taken place. The report does not indicate how and in what circumstances, the decision to conduct the marriage was taken and by whom?” the judges observed and sought a comprehensive report in two weeks’ time. However, the court was unhappy when the report was filed and called for departmental action against the police official concerned for his “inaction”.
In its ruling, the judges said they found Hadiya’s behaviour to be abnormal for a youth of her age. Though the possibility of a genuine interest on Hadiya’s part to learn religion cannot be ruled out, such an inclination was out of place, they said. Her study of Islam was confined to “merely attending a course of two months duration” and she did not study anything further on the religion.
Expressing anguish on being kept in the dark over the sudden wedding of Hadiya, the judges said her case was not of a girl falling in love with a boy of a different religion and wanting to get married to him. The judges suspect that their observation on 14 November asking why Hadiya continued to be under Zainaba’s care had something to do with the sudden arranged marriage. Until 26 November 2016, Hadiya had only spoken about completing her medical course. The sudden wedding, the judges observed, was performed to take her out from the court’s reach, and it called Zainaba and her husband, who were Hadiya’s guardians, as untrustworthy. The court said an organisational set-up was functioning behind the scenes in Hadiya’s case.
The Supreme Court has to view this in particular in the case. As the honourable Kerala judges said, this is not a case of love marriage. It is an arranged marriage. Now, why should some Zainaba marry off Hadiya when her father Ashokan is alive?
M.R. Subramani is Executive Editor, Swarajya. He tweets @mrsubramani
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