HM Journal

Right to choose a partner is a fundamental right under Article 21

Judgement Name: Laxmibai Chandaragi B & Anr. v. The State of Karnataka & Ors. Writ Petition [Criminal] No.359/2020.

Court Name: Supreme Court of India

Facts:

Santosh and Laxmi were both working as assistant professors in different colleges and developed a mutual attraction for each other while meeting regularly. However, there was opposition from Laxmi’s parents, though Santosh’s parents consented to the marriage. Laxmi’s parents filed a missing person report after she left to elope with Santosh. However, Laxmi sent her marriage certificate to her parents in which she revealed details about her marriage to Santosh. She also spoke to the investigating officer informing him that she had already married Santosh and was residing with him.  However, the IO insisted that she should appear before the Murgod police station to record a statement in order to close the case. She proceeded to dispatch a letter to the IO stating that she was married to Santosh and due to threats from her parents, could not visit the police station. Following that, the IO wanted to close the case and required her statement to be recorded at the police station. The IO also stated that family members may file a case against her for stealing items from the house and that if an FIR is filed, it will be a negative mark against Santosh, following which they will have to arrest him, which will be problematic for his job as well. It was also disclosed that the IO threatened the man and the woman, registering a false case against the man for kidnapping and the woman for theft in her family home. The man and the woman approached the Allahabad High Court for security and to quash the missing person FIR, however, the matter was not taken up by the Court. Thereafter, the couple approached the Supreme Court for redressal.

Issues:

  1. Whether the investigating officer can compel someone to travel to a specially designated police station in order to record a statement?
  2. Whether parents have any say in their child’s “right to choose a life partner” who has attained the legal age for entering into a marriage?
  3. Whether society can exert any influence over the matrimonial choices of any person?

Findings and Judgement of the Court:

The Court stated that the way the case was handled does not reflect well on the police authorities or the IO stating that if the IO had been able to visit Santosh’s home, he could have also recorded Laxmi’s statement instead of coercing and summoning the petitioners to the Karnataka police station. The Court also held that the fact that educated younger boys and girls are choosing their own life partners is a departure from previous societal norms where caste and community played a significant role in choosing a life partner, and it is also a landmark step forward wherein caste and community tensions will be reduced by such intermarriage. The court emphasized that children who face threats from their elders who forbid them to marry will be helped by them. The consent of the family, clan or community is not required once two consenting adult individuals agree to enter into marriage, and their consent must be given priority and primacy. The Court also quoted their earlier decisions in Ranjan vs the State of Bihar and Shafin Jahan v. Ashokan KM and Ors where it held that the choice of an individual is an inextricable facet of dignity and dignity does not exist without the right to choose which cannot be expected to fall prey to “class honour” and relied on the landmark K.S Puttusamy v. Union of India case holding that the right to marry a person of choice is an integral part of Article 21 of the Constitution which even society cannot interfere with as marital autonomy is vital to the dignity of an individual. The Court hoped that parents would not alienate their children under the pretext of caste and community which would hardly be a desirable social exercise.

Decisions of the Court:

  1. The proceedings in furtherance of the FIR registered at Murgod Police Station, Belagavi District, Karnataka be quashed.
  2. The police authorities are directed to take action in respect of laying down guidelines and training programmes on how to handle similar socially sensitive cases.

Opinion:

This extremely commendable and courageous decision is one that should be strictly enforced throughout India. It is not a lengthy judgement spanning many pages, but rather a very brief, concise and matter of fact judgement of only 7 pages that perfectly captures the essence of the freedom of choice and right to privacy with respect to marriage and relationships in a balanced way. In my opinion, it must be applauded emphatically for stating unequivocally that the consent of the family, community, or clan is not required once two adult individuals agree to enter into wedlock. Indeed, marriage is a private matter between two consenting adults, and neither the family, the community, or even the State itself should ever try to intervene.

Judgement Date– February 8, 2021

Judges Bench- Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice Hrishikesh Roy

Writer name: Anuthama Chandrasekhar

College Name: SASTRA DEEMED UNIVERSITY

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