The Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to declare that a marriage performed without the woman’s consent was void as it issued notice on a plea by a Karnataka woman seeking annulment of her marriage.
A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar and Justice D.Y. Chandrachud said: “We can’t give a declaration that the petitioner’s marriage performed without her consent is void.”
It asked Delhi Police to give her protection during her stay in the city as she said she was married in the family of an influential politician and there was a threat to her life.
As senior counsel Indira Jaising said that in the Hindu Marriage Act, there was no provision for providing the bride’s consent, the bench — referring to its judgment in a Kerala ‘love jihad’ case wherein it said that a marriage can’t be annulled in a habeas corpus petition — said it did not want to go into whether the marriage was performed without the woman’s consent and against her wishes.
Having made clear that it would not go into the validity of the marriage, the court said this was for a family court to decide and directed police protection for her.
The petitioner challenged the constitutional validity of Sections 5(ii) and 7 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, saying they “fail to prescribe/stipulate free, fair, valid prior consent of the parties to a marriage”.
Stressing that she was not opposed to the customary rites and rituals allowed under the Act, she said the Sections are in violation of the Constitution’s Articles 14 and 21, arbitrary and discriminatory in nature.
The petitioner – who has a B.Tech degree and is pursuing M.Tech – said her fundamental right to choose her life partner has been “brazenly trampled by her family members, who coerced, threatened, blackmailed, harassed, pressurized, abused, compelled and tricked her into getting married against her wishes and free consent”.
Narrating the ordeal, she said she was made to believe by her family that her reluctance to get married would cost her father his political ambitions and was threatened by her own brother of rape, acid attack and murder.
She said she was assured by her family that her marriage would be brought to an end soon and then she would be free to marry any person of her choice.