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Supreme Court frees Hadiya from the clutches of her parents, sends her to Sivaraj Homeopathic Medical College in Salem, Tamil Nadu to continue her studies

The Supreme Court, on Monday, freed Hadiya aka Akhila Ashokan – the embattled 24-year-old caught in the vortex of the ongoing ‘Kerala Love Jihad’ case – from the clutches of her parents, ‘freeing’ her to continue for homeopathy medicine course at the Sivaraj Homeopathic Medical College in Salem, Tamil Nadu.

However, the apex court denied her request for appointing her husband, Shafin Jahan, as her guardian for the 11-month period that remains for her to complete her course in homeopathy that she was forced to abandon after her marriage was termed as a case of ‘love jihad’ by the Kerala High Court and she was separated from her husband and sent to be in the custody of her father- Asokan. The apex court instead ordered that the college’s dean would act as her guardian for the period during which she completes her education.

The Supreme Court’s intervention in helping Hadiya return to the life she lived before being thrust into the limelight as the Hindu girl who had allegedly been forced into marriage by a Muslim man and radicalised came during proceedings that saw Hadiya make an impassionate appeal for her freedom.

In the nearly two-hour-long hearing that happened in the court of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, and Justices DY Chandrachud and AM Khanwilkar, Hadiya pleaded for her “freedom” and to see her husband, telling the Bench that “I am in unlawful custody (of her father, Asokan)”.

At one point during the hearing, Justice Chandrachud asked Hadiya: “What are your plans for your future”. The petite 24-year-old replied: “I want my freedom”.

Hadiya’s deposition presented her as a girl who knew her mind, one who would rather be with her husband Shafin Jahan of her own accord instead of living on the crutches of the state’s aid and who knew what she desired from life.

When Justice Chandrachud asked her if she wanted to continue her studies on the state’s expense, Hadiya replied: “I want to (study) but not on state’s expense. My husband can take care of me.”

“I want to be a good human being… I want to live on my own feet (sic)”, was her reply when Justice Chandrachud sought to know what she wanted to do with her life after completing her education.

However, if Hadiya had hoped that the Supreme Court would instantly unite her with her husband Shafin Jahan, that did not happen. Although she urged the court to appoint her husband as her guardian in Salem during the course of her studies, the request was denied.

Justice Chandrachud cautioned Hadiya saying: “Even I am not the guardian to my wife. Wives are not chattel… you have your own identity and you will portray that.”

The apex court bench also considered certain other issues raised by counsels appearing in the case.

Senior advocate Shyam Divan requested the Bench to take the proceeding in-camera in another court.

Divan argued that there were some forces” behind the judgement of the Kerala High Court which had termed Hadiya and Shafin’s marriage as a case of “love jihad”. “There is a very highly charged community change scenario and a security issue. There could be some threats for Hadiya,” Divan said, adding that there are some documents that link Jahan to “some groups”.

Justice Chandrachud asked Divan about the “authenticity of the transcript” that he was referring to.

TO this, Divan replied: “These transcripts are voice recording of a phone conversation. There are points that this particular person has some links… India Today did a sting operation – the report is on page 30 – in which it is written that there is some organization which is doing these type of marriages. Mansi Buraki was arrested by NIA who posted on social media and recruits persons for these things.”

“On Facebook Mansi put an objectionable post on which Shafin Jahan commented: “How much do I get if I become a recruiter? And she replied – in dollars. These are the points because of which we want in-camera proceeding of Hadiya,” Divan argued.

Additional Solicitor General Maninder Singh, appearing for the National Investigation Agency which is probing the love-jihad angle in the case – supported Divan’s argument and said: “There is a website which is a way to Nikaah. There is only one way to go to this website – you must be a member of a petitioner group.”

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, representing Hadiya, said: “I am saddened today. Now we are fighting over the manner of the hearing. We are here for a girl’s right. Who recorded those clips? Whose voice is it? For eight months she is in the custody of her father. Why is all this happening? What is going on?”

The case has been listed for further hearing in the third week of January.

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