Akhila, who now goes by the name of Hadiya, is a 24-year-old woman in Kerala who converted to Islam of her own choice and later married a Muslim man Shafin Jahan. In May, a Division Bench of the Kerala High Court annulled her marriage terming it to be a “sham”. The HC also directed that Hadiya should be placed in the protective custody of her Hindu parents, or an institution, so that she is prevented from being a further victim of “love jihad”.

To protect his marriage, Shafin Jahan has now moved to the Supreme Court against the HC order which was earlier criticised for trammelling upon the decisional autonomy of an adult woman.

The HC order came after KM Asokan, Hadiya’s father, had filed a writ petition, contending that his daughter had been forcibly converted to Islam and was being confined in illegal detention. Notably, last year, the same court had given legal sanctity to Hadiya’s conversion as she was an adult. Jahan has argued that his 24-year-old wife, who changed her name to Hadiya, did not convert to Islam for marrying him.

Shafin’s lawyers claim that the subsequent Division Bench of Justices Surendra Mohan and Abraham Mathew ought not to have adjudicated the issue of Hadiya’s conversion, because that is barred by the principle of res judicata, which seeks to prevent the multiplicity of proceedings on the same issue.

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Also, Hadiya had converted to Islam two years prior to her marriage with Shafin, so the possibility of a coerced conversion, or one under allurement, is also ruled out.

On 27 July 2006, the Supreme Court, in Lata Singh’s case had upheld the individual decisional autonomy of a major woman who had left her parents’ home to marry the man of her choice. Shafin’s petition states that the High Court’s order, with unnecessary religious overtones is in violation of binding precedent, and “an insult to the independence of women in India.”

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