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Does Right to Life includes Right to Marry?

Lata Singh v/s The State Of Uttar Pradesh & Another - (2006(5)SCC 475)

Criminal -Constitution of India - Article 21, 25, 19(1)(a), 32, 38, 51A(e) - Scope of - Right to marry of one�s choice Inter Caster marriage - Issuance of Writ of Certiorari/Mandamus to quash Vexatious/malicious criminal proceeding - Matter involving freedom of conscience and expression in terms of marry of one�s choice outside one�s case.

Lata Singh - the Petitioner, a major was residing with her brother Ajay Pratap Singh after the demise of her parents. The petitioner left her brother�s house on November 2, 2000 at her own will to marry Mr. Brahma Nand Gupta, who had business at Delhi and few other places. The Petitioner married Mr. Brahma Nand Gupta at Arya Samaj Mandir.

Ajay Pratap Singh - petitioner�s brother lodged a missing person�s report on November 4, 2000 at Sarojini Nagar police station, Lucknow. Consequently, the police arrested two sisters of the petitioner�s husband, husband of one of the sister and a cousin of the petitioner�s husband. The persons arrested by concerned Police Station were Mamta Gupta, Sangita Gupta, Rakesh Gupta (Husband of Mamta Gupta) and Kallu Gupta respectively.

As alleged by the Petitioner, petitioner�s brothers Ajay Pratap Singh, Anand Pratap Singh and Shashi Pratap Singh being intensively directed towards casteism were against their marriage as Brahma Nand Gupta belonged to another caste. They strenuously entered the petitioner�s husband�s paternal residence and ensued in a scuffle with his relatives. That they allegedly forcibly took possession of the field and shop owned by the petitioner�s husband and lodged a false police report stating that the petitioner was kidnapped by her husband and her relatives and that the petitioner is mentally unstable.

The Petitioner alleged that the petitioner�s brothers threatened to kill her, her husband and her relatives. Considering the dire consequences, Gupta family abstained from moving to Lucknow. Amidst the various allegations, tactics and circumstances three of the Gupta family members had to live in jail for a long period of time and were also not granted bail.

The petitioner alleged that she ran from pillar to post to save her family, she then approached The Rajasthan Woman Commission, Jaipur as she was staying in Jaipur apprehending danger to her and her husband�s life. After the intervention of the commission the accused were granted bail, as the possibility of them being involved in any vicious act was ruled out.

The statement of the petitioner was recorded before the Chief Judicial Magistrate wherein she stated that she married Brahma Nand Gupta at her own free will and left home vigilantly. Despite this statement, the learned Chief Judicial Magistrate, Lucknow passed the committal order on 5.10.2001 ignoring the fact that the Police had already filed a final report in the matter.

The Fast Track Court, Lucknow before whom the case was pending issued non-bailable warrants against all the four accused; and against the order of the Fast Track Court, the accused filed a petition under section 482Cr.P.C. in the Allahabad High Court (Lucknow Bench) which was registered as Crl. Misc. No. 520/2003. The High Court directed the accused to appear before the Sessions Judge who would himself scrutinize whether the accused committed any offence or not. The matter is still pending.

After the order of the Allahabad High Court (Lucknow Bench), writ petition under Article 32 of the Constitution of India was filed with a prayer for issuing a writ of certiorari and /or mandamus for quashing the Sessions Trial No. 1201 of 2001 under sections 366 and 368 of the Indian Penal Code arising out of FIR No. 336 of 2000 registered at Police Station Sarojini Nagar, Lucknow and pending in the Fast Track Court V, Lucknow. The Hon�ble Supreme Court allowed the Petition.

The operative part of the judgement reads as under:
The caste system is a curse on the nation and the sooner it is destroyed the better. In fact, it is dividing the nation at a time when we have to be united to face the challenges before the nation unitedly. Hence, inter-caste marriages are in fact in the national interest as they will result in destroying the caste system.

However, disturbing news are coming from several parts of the country that young men and women who undergo inter-caste marriage, are threatened with violence, or violence is actually committed on them. In our opinion, such acts of violence or threats or harassment are wholly illegal and those who commit them must be severely punished.

This is a free and democratic country, and once a person becomes a major he or she can marry whosoever he/she likes. If the parents of the boy or girl do not approve of such inter-caste or inter-religious marriage the maximum they can do is that they can cut off social relations with the son or the daughter, but they cannot give threats or commit or instigate acts of violence and cannot harass the person who undergoes such inter-caste or inter- religious marriage.

We, therefore, direct that the administration/police authorities throughout the country will see to it that if any boy or girl who is a major undergoes inter-caste or inter-religious marriage with a woman or man who is a major, the couple are not harassed by any one nor subjected to threats or acts of violence, and any one who gives such threats or harasses or commits acts of violence either himself or at his instigation, is taken to task by instituting criminal proceedings by the police against such persons and further stern action is taken against such persons as provided by law.

We sometimes hear of `honour� killings of such persons who undergo inter-caste or inter-religious marriage of their own free will. There is nothing honourable in such killings, and in fact they are nothing but barbaric and shameful acts of murder committed by brutal, feudal minded persons who deserve harsh punishment. Only in this way can we stamp out such acts of barbarism.

In the circumstances, the writ petition is allowed. The proceedings in SessionsTrial No. 1201/2001 titled State of U.P. vs. Sangita Gupta & Ors. arising out of FIR No. 336/2000 registered at Police Station Sarojini Nagar, Lucknow and pending in the Fast Track Court V, Lucknow are quashed.

The warrants against the accused are also quashed. The police at all the concerned places should ensure that neither the petitioner nor her husband nor any relatives of the petitioner�s husband are harassed or threatened nor any acts of violence are committed against them. If anybody is found doing so, he should be proceeded against sternly in accordance with law, by the authorities concerned.

We further direct that in view of the allegations in the petition (set out above) criminal proceedings shall be instituted forthwith by the concerned authorities against the petitioner�s brothers and others involved in accordance with law. Petition allowed.�

Lata Singh v/sThe State Of Uttar Pradesh (2006(5) SCC 475)decided on 07/07/2006 by Hon�ble Supreme court in Writ Petition No. 208 of 2004, is a landmark judgement which protects folks who marry inter caste or inter religion and against the wishes of their parents, which could lead to honour killings or other form of harassment and violence. Hence it can be held that right to life includes right to marry of one�s own choice.

Written By: Adv. Raghavendra Mehrotra, Founder & Managing partner of Lawkhart Legal

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