I’m asking this question on behalf of my friend. He loves his colleague, and they have decided to get married. They belong from a different community, therefore, cannot marry due to the customs of their society. He is terrified because his uncle warned him that if he marries with his friend, then he should be ready to face serious consequences. Sir, this doesn’t seem right, and no one can force them to retract from their decision. Please tell me what they should do?
He should not be afraid of the threats giving by his uncle. They have attained the age of majority as required under Section 5(iii) of the Hindu Marriage Act 1955 (HMA). According to Section 5(iii) of HMA, the marriageable age for bridegroom is 21 years and 18 years for a bride.
Your friends belong to the different Hindu community. They are Hindu, despite coming from a different Hindu community. Section 5 of HMA mandates that the party to the marriage should be Hindu. Hence, the marriage will be valid under the Hindu Marriage Act.
Right to choose a life partner is a fundamental right
Recently, the Supreme Court held in Shakti Vahini v. Union of India, (2018) 7 SCC 192 held that the right to select a life partner is a fundamental right. The court held that right to marry a person of one’s choice is a fundamental right under Article 21, 19(1)(a) and 14 of the Constitution of India. Freedom of speech and expression coupled with life and personal liberty manifest the right to choose each other as life partners.
Once the fundamental right is inherent in a person, then no one can scuttle such right by leaning on any kind of philosophy, moral or social, or self-proclaimed elevation. Thus his uncle has no right to posing such threats. He is committing an offence under section 504/506 of the Indian Penal Code. His uncle cannot take the law into his hands as well as he has no law implementing authority.
In Lata Singh v. State of U.P., (2006) 5 SCC 475; the Supreme Court has expressed its concern about growing incident of threats and violence against inter-caste marriage. The Court held that:
“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.”
Take protection order from the High Court
In the current scenario, your friend should get a protection order. He should move a writ petition before the High Court under Article 226 of the constitution. He is exercising his fundamental right. His family members cannot prohibit him to do so because marriage is against their wish. Therefore, he has the right to get protection against such threats.
You can seek a protection order from the High Court on the dictum of Lata Singh case. The Supreme Court has directed as:
“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 is not harassed by anyone nor subjected to threats or acts of violence, and anyone 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.”
Again in the Shakti Vahini case, the Supreme Court has reiterated about the protection of such a couple as:
“The District Magistrate/Superintendent of Police must deal with the complaint regarding threat administered to such couple/family with the utmost sensitivity. It should be first ascertained whether the bachelor-bachelorette are capable adults. Thereafter, if necessary, they may be provided logistical support for solemnising their marriage and/or for being duly registered under police protection, if they so desire.
After the marriage, if the couple so desire, they can be provided accommodation on payment of nominal charges in the safe house initially for a period of one month to be extended on monthly basis but not exceeding one year in aggregate, depending on their threat assessment on a case-to-case basis.”
Thus your friend is entitled to seek a protection order. If he does not want to file a complaint against his family members he can directly approach the High Court. The court will implement his fundamental right. It may direct the district police administration to take appropriate step to solemnise his marriage.