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Last Updated Saturday November 21 2020 11:22 AM IST

Supreme Court sets Hadiya free from parents' custody to complete studies

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Hadiya is free to continue her studies: SC Hadiya, a 24-year-old woman from Kerala who converted to Islam, leaves the Supreme Court in New Delhi after a hearing on the religious conversion case on Monday. PTI

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday freed Hadiya, a Kerala woman at the center of a religious conversion row, from the custody of her parents and sent her to college to pursue her studies, even as she pleaded that she should be allowed to go with her husband.

On Monday, the 24-year-old Hadiya, alias Akhila, who had converted to Islam and married Shafin Jahan, told the SC that she wanted freedom. She appealed to the top court to let her continue her studies and said that her husband was capable of taking care of her expenses.

During the hearing which went on for over two hours, the woman said she wanted to go with her husband Shafin Jahan.

The apex court, which interacted with Hadiya for nearly half-an-hour in the open courtroom against the wishes of her father who had sought an in-camera interaction, directed the Kerala police to provide her security and ensure that she traveled at the earliest to Salem in Tamil Nadu to pursue homeopathy studies at Sivaraj Homoeopathic Medical Colleges and Research Institute there.

The SC also ordered the Tamil Nadu government to provide security to Hadiya for the next 11 months until she finishes her medical internship. The medical college dean will be her guardian, the SC ordered.

When the court asked 'would you like to continue your studies on state's expense', Hadiya said, "I want to but not on state's expense. My husband can take care of me."

However, the court did not specify whether her husband, Shafin Jahan, could meet her.

Hadiya was in the custody of her parents for almost six months, after the Kerala High Court had on May 29 annulled her 'nikah' with Shafin Jahan. Hadiya, a Hindu by birth, had converted to Islam several months before her marriage.

The court fixed the plea of Jahan, challenging Kerala High Court's order annulling his marriage with Hadiya, for hearing in the third week of January next year.

A bench headed by chief justice Dipak Misra also appointed the dean of the college as her local guardian and granted him liberty to approach it in case of any problem.

Hadiya is free to continue her studies: SC Shafin Jahan, husband of Hadiya, leaves after appearing in the Supreme Court in New Delhi on Monday in connection with a alleged religious conversion case. PTI

The bench, also comprising justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, directed that Hadiya should be treated as any other student in the college.

The top court also acceded to the request of Hadiya that she be first allowed to visit her friend's home as she has been mentally harassed for past 11 months and allowed her to visit her friend before going to Salem to attend college.

Hadiya, when asked by the bench to name any nearest relative or acquaintance at Salem to be named as the local guardian, said she only needed her husband in that role. She said her husband can take care of her expenses of studies and she does not need state's expenses to pursue her professional course.

The bench posed questions in English, while Hadiya replied in Malyalam, which was translated by senior advocate V Giri who appeared for Kerala government.

During the hearing, which continued for almost two-and- half hours till 5.30pm, Hadiya's parents, her in-laws and her husband were present in the packed courtroom.

The bench asked questions about her ambitions, life, studies and hobbies, which she replied comfortably and said she wanted to do internship of house surgeonship, a course of 11 months and wanted to stand on her own in life.

The court directed the college and the university to re-admit Hadiya and grant her hostel facilities.

At the outset, senior advocate Shyam Diwan, appearing for Hadiya's father K M Asokan, said his daughter should be questioned in-camera as this was a case of indoctrination backed by huge organizational support.

He claimed there was a highly communally charged atmosphere which could have wider ramifications and insisted on his plea for in-camera proceedings.

Diwan also placed an alleged transcript of conversation between one alleged offshore ISIS handler and Hadiya's husband, saying it showed that Jahan had links with an organization called Popular Front of India (PFI) and a larger conspiracy of indoctrination was happening on the ground.

Ashokan had raised serious allegations against Sathya Sarani, a religious center in Malappuram, and said it had orchestrated the conversion of many people.

He said in social networking sites, there was a conversation between one Abdul Rashid and Jahan in which he has been found asking how much money he can get to make a person join the ranks of militant outfit ISIS.

Additional solicitor general Maninder Singh, appearing for NIA, said there were compelling evidence to show a well-oiled machinery which indulges in indoctrination and conversion.

"NIA's job was to give solid facts and it has been found during investigation that 11 cases were detected by Kerala police and seven such cases involved the same organization and person.

"The real question is how to establish whether a person is indoctrinated, brain-washed or programmed due to which his or her individual autonomy is compromised," Singh said.

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Jahan, said this audio recording was nothing new and was being in circulation for past one year.

"What indoctrination? She has been with her parents for past 11 months. National Commission of Women, NIA all interrogated her but state commission for women was not allowed. She is entitled to speak her mind and has her own individual autonomy and the court should hear her,"Sibal said.

The bench initially said it would first decide whether to interact with her first and then peruse materials of NIA or first peruse the material and then hear her.

"It is a question of what comes first. We have to decide that first. Her father says it is a larger conspiracy but this is also a matter between two adults. Would this case not have the bearing on other cases," the court observed.

Justice Chandrachud posed at what stage the autonomy of an individual is breached, what could be the impact and at what time can the court intervene.

He also referred to the 'Stockholm syndrome' where a person, who is a hostage, starts believing in his kidnappers.

"Although this is not your case, but in such cases there is a free consent of person who is major, but due to this syndrome, he can't take decisions freely. His individual autonomy is broken," justice Chandrachud said.

The Kerala government said the court should first peruse the materials and then talk to the woman.

"The sequence has to be different at the appellate court. We as a state deal with this scenario everyday at ground level. The court should first look into the material and then talk to her," Kerala counsel Giri said.

To this, the bench said "we are under oath to protect the constitutional values. Constitution does not give us the power to abdicate from hearing a case. We are trying to figure out a way to proceed. We don't see such cases every day."

The bench then called Hadiya and asked questions while making it clear that case will be heard on merits in the third week of January.

Really happy: Jahan

"I'm really happy," Jahan told reporters after the SC order. On whether he would meet Hadiya in hostel, Jahan said he would seek legal advise before making any decision.

Hadiya case

The 24-year-old (Akhila) Hindu woman had converted to Islam and married a Muslim, Shafin Jahan. However, the Kerala High Court had earlier this year annulled her marriage with Shafin Jahan. The HC had also put her in the protective custody of her parents, K M Asokan and Ponnamma. Jahan then moved the Supreme Court, which had ordered the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to look into allegations of forced conversion.

The top court had on October 30 directed Hadiya's father to present her in the court on November 27 to ascertain her views on her marriage to Jahan.

Hadiya had left for Delhi on Saturday. At the Kochi airport, Hadiya shouted out that she wanted to go with her husband, Shafin Jahan.

Read more: Latest Kerala news | Oommen Chandy's wife needs 8 days in a week: hilarious speech goes viral

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