Landmark Cases on Inter-Religious/Inter-Caste Marriages in India
I. INTER CASTE MARRIAGE
1. Lata Singh v. State of U.P., (2006)5 SCC 475
In this case, a petition was filed by the Petitioner for the quashing of the trial pending adjudication at a Fastrack Court at Lucknow, U.P. arising out of an FIR for kidnapping. The petitioner had married a boy out of her own free will and also had a child out of the wedlock.
The petitioner’s brother launched a missing report and consequently, her husband’s sisters and other family members were arrested by the police. It was alleged that the petitioner’s brothers were furious with the inter-caste marriage and therefore they had been harassing the relatives of the petitioner’s husband.
It was held by the court that the petitioner was a major and she was free to marry anyone she liked. It was held that the caste system was a curse to the nation and it was dividing the nation into several segments.
The court directed the state machinery throughout the country to take appropriate steps and ensure that a boy or a girl which undergoes an inter-caste or inter-religious marriage is not subjected to violence or harassment. The proceedings of the Fastrack Court were quashed directions were given for the Institution of appropriate criminal proceedings against the brothers of the petitioner.
2. Ashok Kumar Todi v Kishwar Jahan, (2011) 3 SCC 758
This case pertains to an inter-religious marriage between a Muslim boy and a Girl. The couple had informed the Police authorities about their marriage about the marriage by way of a letter and marriage registration certificate.
When the girl informed her parents about the same they took her with them and instead lodged missing complaints with the higher police authorities. Some days later the dead body of the boy was found and his brother lodged a complaint with the police and the girl’s family members were named in the FIR.
The CID took over the investigation and in the meanwhile the family of the deceased boy filed petition before the Calcutta High Court and directions for a CBI inquiry were given.
The accused persons appealed before a division bench of the High Court and the order of the Single judge was quashed. The deceased’s family went to the Supreme Court and the findings of the Single judge were reinstated and it was held that the police authorities were complicit in helping the accused persons and directions were given to take action against such officers.
3. Mayakaur Baldevsingh Sardar v. The State of Maharashtra, (2007) 12 SCC 654
In this case a boy and girl fell in love got married when the girl informed her parents about the love affair it was objected that the boy belong to an inferior cast and was also financially weak. Parents arranged for groom and when the girl informed her parents married their threatened her with dire consequences.
The girl left her parents home and started residing at the Husband’s place. On one fine day, the girl’s mother went to meet the girl and the husband saw some people armed with weapons approaching the house. They were assaulted and the husband along with the family was murdered and the girl was thrown from the balcony. She did not die but was grievously hurt.
Cognizance of the offence was taken and the trial court awarded death penalty to four of the accused people. The High Court was split in its decision on the question of death penalty the matter was referred to a third judge who acquitted one accused and rest of them were awarded imprisonment for life.
Appeals were made to the Supreme Court and it was held that there was premeditation and the case was of actual murders. The court refused to reverse the order of life sentences and re-impose death penalty. It affirmed the order of the High Court.
II. HONOUR KILLINGS
4. Arumugam Servai v State of Tamil Nadu (2011) 6 SCC 405
Although this case had nothing to do with Inter caste marriages but the issue related to inter caste marriage found a very sound mention in this judgment rendered by the Supreme Court. The facts of the case are that the Court was adjudicating a dispute relating to an altercation which happened between certain people on the festival of Jalikattu and they had engaged in a fight along with having hurled abuses by using derogatory words entrenched in casteism.
It was held by the Supreme Court after quoting the decision of Lata Singh v. State of U.P. that the concept of Khap Panchayats is totally wrong and illegal. It was observed that there is nothing honourable about honour killings and it is barbaric and shameful. It was held that such actions need to be dealt strictly and people engaged in such activities have to be given the harshest punishments.
It was held that taking the law in their own hands was unjustified and wholly illegal and these panchayats act as Kangaroo Courts. As such directions were issued to the police and state authorities to be vigilant and keep a tab on such activities.
5. Shakti Vahini v. Union of India, (2018) 7 SCC 192
In the present case a writ petition was filed seeking appropriate directions for the State Governments and the Central Government to take preventive measures and curb the crimes of honour killings. It was also prayed that a National Level and State Level action plan also be made to create an effective policy in dealing with such crimes. It was also asked that a special cell be created by the police who can be approached by the couples for their safety and well being.
It was held that the Khap Panchayats or any other assembly must refrain from taking law into their own hands. They cannot assume the role and character of a law enforcement agency or an agency of the State. Their actions were illegal and needed to be stopped in entirety.
It was observed that honour killing was a very serious violation of human rights and that the state had to ensure that crimes of such a nature are curbed.
Various directions were given by the Supreme Court and the police were directed to create special cells. The police officials were also directed to take action against Khap Panchayats on receiving information about their illegal activities.
III. RESERVATION BENEFITS
6. Anjan Kumar v. Union of India, (2006) 3 SCC 257
In the instant case the appellant was born out of a wedlock as the result of an inter caste marriage where in the father belonged to the forward class community and the mother belonged to a scheduled tribe. The appellant in this case got a certificate of being a scheduled tribe from the State authorities on the ground that his mother belonged to a Scheduled tribe.
The appellant appeared in an examination conducted by the Union Public Service Commission and he appeared under the category of a scheduled tribe. When the results came out he ranked in the merit list, however no letter was sent to him with regard to joining for training. He made several representations to the authorities but received no answer. He filed a petition for directions in this regard.
It was held by the Supreme Court that since the father of the appellant come from a forward class category, the appellant had been brought up in an atmosphere wherein he was not subjected to any disability. It was further held that the certificate of reservation is not to be distributed like a bounty but rather it has to be proved by the person asking for the same that he has suffered disability on the grounds of social, economic and educational backwardness.
7. N. E. Horo v. Jahan Ara Jaipal Singh, 1972 AIR 1840
In this case a marriage was contracted wherein the deceased belonged to the The Munda tribe and the respondent was not a tribal. The deceased was a member of the Lok Sabha from a constituency which was reserved for the scheduled tribe. On his death his wife filed nomination for contesting elections. The petitioner filed objections on the ground that the wife could not contest elections since she was not a tribal and the marriage had no effect on her category and class.
It was held by the Supreme Court that in The Munda tribe marriage outside the tribe was not permissible and in cases where such a marriage was contracted, a person was socially boycotted and excommunicated from the tribe. However, it was observed that there were customary practices where in such a marriage by the elders of The Tribe could be allowed.
It was held that the deceased had not been excommunicated and was accepted. It was held that once such a marriage was accepted the person who was not a tribal is allowed entry into the tribe. As such the respondent in the instant case was duly admitted to the tribe and the benefit of being a tribal would have to be provided to her.
IV. THE RIGHT TO MARRY
8. Shafin Jahan v. Asokan K.M., 2018 SCC OnLine SC 343
Famously known as the Hadiya case, in this matter the Girl had converted to Islam and she was pursuing a medical course. She did not go to her parents for a long time and her father filed a writ of habeas corpus before the Kerala High Court. The girl appeared in the court and refused to go with her father.
The Court ordered that she was free to pursue her course and stay as per choice. The father filed another petition alleging that his daughter might be transported out of the country. Various directions were issued and on one hearing the girl apprised the Court that she had married by a boy.
The High Court astonished with the development invoked the Parens Patriae doctrine and ordered that the girl be taken to her hostel and she should not be allowed the facility of a mobile phone until further orders.
The husband of the girl challenged the order of the High Court and the Supreme Court held that the High Court had committed a gross error. It was held that the girl was not a minor and she was free to live as per her choice. It was held that the Right to marry a person of one’s own choice is a part and parcel of Art. 21 of the Constitution.
V. STATUS OF SPOUSE AFTER INTER-CASTE MARRIAGE
9. Mrs. Valsamma Paul v. Cochin University AIR 1996 SC 1011
In this case the Appellant was a forward class Christian and she had married a Backward class Christian. She applied for a vacancy at a University under the reserved category for the Backward Class. She was given the job and later a Writ was filed in the High Court challenging her appointment. The High Court allowed the Writ and subsequently the matter went to the Division Bench and later a reference was made and the Full Court held that the petitioner was not entitled for the reservation.
In Appeal the Supreme Court agreed with the decision of the Full Court and held that a Person who belongs to the forward class and has married into a backward class will not be entitled of the benefits which are made for the backward class. It was held that even if a person starts to get recognition of the new identity after the marriage it will be immaterial.
It was held that since the person belonged to a forward class and has had an advantageous life due to being a member of the forward class. A subsequent marriage will not make such a person eligible for the benefits and entitlements.
VI. STATUS OF A CHILD OF INTER-CASTE MARRIAGE
10. Rameshbhai Dabhai Naika v. State of Gujarat (2012) 3 SCC 400
In this case, the question for determination before the Court was as to what would be the status of a child where the father belonged to a non-tribal caste and the mother belonged to a Scheduled tribe. In this case, the petitioner’s father was a Hindu whereas the mother was a tribal. The petitioner lost his tribal certificate on the ground that his father did not belong to the tribal caste.
It was held that the general presumption is that in a case where the father belongs to a forward class and the mother belongs to a backward class then the child would not be entitled to the benefits which are given to a member of the scheduled caste or Scheduled tribe.
However, the presumption can be rebutted if the offspring shows that he was single handily brought up by the mother and he had to face the same type of troubles and harassment which was faced by his mother. Every case is to be analyzed on the facts and circumstances and sweeping blanket rule cannot be formulated. Since the High Court had not analyzed the evidence and taken into consideration other relevant factors, the case was reverted back for a fresh adjudication.