08 Feb 2121

The Apex Court directs the police authorities to frame guidelines and training programmes to sensitize the investigating officers for handling the cases of inter-caste marriages

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

Court : Supreme Court of India

Bench : Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice Hrishikesh Roy

Decided on : 08 Feb 2121

Relevant Statutes

Articles 32 and 21 of the Constitution of India

Brief Facts and Procedural History

1. Mr. Basappa Chandaragi lodged a complaint with the Murgod Police Station, Savadatti Taluk, Belagavi District stating that his daughter Ms. Laxmibai Chandaragi, petitioner No.1 was missing since 14.10.2020. In pursuance of the complaint, a First Information Report of a missing person was registered and the Investigating Officer recorded the statement of the missing person’s parents and her relatives and took call details. From the call details, it became apparent that petitioner No.1 was in contact with Mr Santosh Singh Yadav, petitioner No.2.

2. It was found that petitioner No.1, 2 without informing her parents, had travelled from Hubli to Delhi via Bangalore and thereafter got married. Petitioner No.1 sent her marriage certificate to her parents through WhatsApp in which she revealed the factum of marriage to petitioner No.2.

3. The Investigating Officer instead insisted that petitioner No.1 should appear before the Murgod police station to record a statement so that the case can be closed. Petitioner No.1 sent a letter to the Investigating Officer stating that she was married to petitioner No.2 and there was a threat from her parents and thus, was unable to visit the police station, but the case was not closed. The Investigating Officer asked petitioner No.1 to come back to Karnataka otherwise they will register a case of kidnapping against petitioner No.2 at the behest of her family members.

4. The petitioners approached the Supreme Court under Article 32 of the Constitution citing the issue of duality of jurisdiction arising from her residing with petitioner No.2 in the State of Uttar Pradesh while petitioner No.1 came from Karnataka. The uncle of petitioner No.1 was threatening the petitioners. They sought protection from the Allahabad High Court, but the matter could not be taken upon even after about one month for urgent hearing.

Issue of the Case

Whether the First Information Report in question should be quashed?

The Observations of the Court

The Honourable Supreme Court observed that:

1. The manner of the investigation did not reflect very well on the police authorities or the Investigating Officer. Petitioner No.1 submitted her marriage certificate and clearly stated that she was married to petitioner No.2 and that she was feeling threatened and apprehensive of coming to the police station. The Investigating Officer could have recorded the statement of petitioner No.1 at her current residence rather than compelling her to come and record the statement at the police station on the threat of the possibility of a false case being registered by her parents against the petitioner No.2 and the consequent action of the police which would result in the arrest of petitioner No.2. The Supreme Court deprecated the conduct of the Investigating Officer in adopting such tactics and the officer must be sent for counselling to learn how to manage such cases.

2. There was resistance from the parents of petitioner No.1, though the parents of petitioner No.2 were willing for the matrimony of both the well-qualified petitioners who are majors and Hindu by religion.

3. Educated younger boys and girls choosing their life partners is a departure from the earlier norms of society where caste and community play a major role, but also a way forward where caste and community tensions will reduce by such intermarriage. However, such youngsters face threats from the elders and the Courts have been coming to the aid of these youngsters.

4. The consent of the family or the community or the clan is not necessary once the two adult individuals agree to enter into wedlock and that their consent has to be piously given primacy. [Shakti Vahini v. Union of India, (2018) 7 SCC 192]

5. The choice of an individual is an inextricable part of dignity, for dignity cannot be thought of where there is an erosion of choice. Such a right of choice is not expected to succumb to the concept of “class honour” or “group thinking.” [Asha Ranjan v. State of Bihar, (2017) 4 SCC 397]

6. Intimacies of marriage lie within a core zone of privacy, which is inviolable and even matters of faith would have the least effect on them. The right to marry a person of choice was held to be integral to Article 21 of the Constitution of India. [Shafin Jahan v. Asokan K M & Ors, (2018) 16 SCC 408]

7. The autonomy of an individual inter alia concerning family and marriage is integral to the dignity of the individual. [Justice K.S. Puttaswamy v. Union of India, (2017) 10 SCC 1]

8. The Supreme Court hoped that the parents of petitioner No.1 will have a better sense to accept the marriage and re-establish social interaction with both the petitioners. Under the garb of caste and community to alienate the child and the son-in-law will hardly be a desirable social exercise while referring to the words of Dr B.R. Ambedkar from “Annihilation of Caste”.

The Decision Held by the Court

The Honourable Supreme Court held that:

1. The proceedings in pursuance of the First Information Report registered at Murgod Police Station, Belagavi District, Karnataka were quashed.

2. The police authorities were directed to take action in eight weeks to lay down some guidelines and training programmes on how to handle such socially sensitive cases.

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