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The Supreme Court on Tuesday (January 23) accepted to make Akhila Asokan alias Hadiya a party in the legal battle between her husband, Shafin Jahan, and father, Asokan, over her marriage. Shafin had moved the Supreme Court after the Kerala High Court annulled his marriage to Hadiya while disposing off a petition filed by Asokan that had termed the union as a case of love jihad.

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal had filed the impleadment application before the Supreme Court Bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra and comprising Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud on Tuesday morning.

During the course of proceedings, the Chief Justice pointedly asked: “the issue to be answered is if the high court can nullify the marriage.”

In remarks that can be viewed as a significant departure by the court from the proceedings in the case so far, the Bench also told the NIA: “You can probe anything but not on marital status, marriage has to be separated from any criminal action, aspect and conspiracy, otherwise we will be creating a bad precedent… We can’t question the legitimacy of her marriage.”

Shafin had challenged the matter in the Supreme Court. The apex court had, last year, also tasked the National Investigation Agency with probing whether the marriage between Hadiya and Shafin was indeed a case of ‘love jihad’ and if there was a larger and continuing pattern to such marriages – a claim that has repeatedly been made by the premier investigation agency.

While Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Maninder Singh, appearing for the NIA, told the Supreme Court on Tuesday that “investigation (into the love jihad angle) has been completed substantially,” the Chief Justice remarked: “we are not concerned about the investigation.”

The Chief Justice wanted to determine whether “the high court can nullify the marriage under Article 226.”

The contention of Shafin and his lawyers through the ongoing legal proceedings has been that the Kerala High Court had exceeded its jurisdiction by annulling Hadiya’s marriage.

Justice Chandrachud said during Tuesday’s proceedings: “It’s for the girl to decide who is a good human being and who is a bad human being, for the purpose of marriage.”

The Chief Justice too remarked: “If the girls says I’m married, what is the court going to do. She is not in an illegal detention.” He also added that if Hadiya’s marriage to Shafin can’t be nullified, “then investigation pertaining to marital status is not relevant.”

The Bench has posted the matter for further hearing on February 2.

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