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Indian Supreme Court says society must learn to accept inter-caste, inter-faith marriages

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BY S VENKAT NARAYAN

Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, February 9:

The Supreme Court of India on Monday underscored the right of the adults to choose their life partner, and added that it is time society learns to accept inter-caste and inter-faith marriages without hounding the couples who marry outside their caste or religion.

A Supreme Court bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Hrishikesh Roy further noted that it would “hardly be a desirable social exercise” for parents to shun their children only because they decided to marry outside their caste or community.

The judges, in their order, also emphasised the need for specific guidelines and a training module for policemen to deal with such “socially sensitive cases”, so that couples can get due protection available to them under the law should the parents lodge criminal cases against them.

The apex court noted that “educated young boys and girls are increasingly choosing their life partner on their own”, which might be viewed as a deviation by the society and the parents. But the police authorities were duty-bound to keep such couples out of harm’s way if there is no violation of the law.

(This country of 1,380 million people has 1,208 castes, and six main religions. Besides, six million people reported in the last census in 2011 that they practice other religions and faiths, including tribal religions).

The court’s comments are significant because they come in the wake of controversial laws/ordinances passed by several states ruled by India’s governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Such laws can be misused to obstruct inter-faith marriages.

The bench was hearing a case of an inter-caste marriage from Karnataka. The couple approached the top court, seeking protection from a criminal case lodged by the woman’s father.

The woman, 28, is from Karnataka while the man, 26, is from Uttar Pradesh. They fell in love while being trained for their jobs as assistant professor and lecturer in a college, and decided to get married. The woman’s parents strongly opposed this alliance. Her father filed a missing persons complaint. This was converted into an FIR at Belagavi in Karnataka.

The couple rushed to the Supreme Court for protection, which promptly stayed the first information report (FIR) by an order in December last year, and sought a response from the Karnataka government.

On Monday, advocate Subhranshu Padhi, appearing for the state government, informed the bench that the woman was yet to record her statement before at the concerned police station in Belagavi about her consensual relationship with the man concerned, and hence the investigation into the father’s complaint was still underway.

But the bench asked Padhi why the investigating officer did not accept the woman’s request to record her statement at a place of her choice so that she could feel safe.

Advocate Prabhat Kumar Rai, who represented the couple, referred to the woman’s letter to the investigating officer and various other senior police officials in Karnataka. These letters disclosed that the couple were married in October 2020; and she also sent a copy of her marriage certificate.

“The woman feared for her safety if she were to go to Belagavi for recording her statement. The right to marry a person of (one’s) own choice is an integral part of Article 21 (right to life and liberty) of the Indian Constitution,” added Rai.

Lamenting the concerned police officer’s attitude, the court said the investigating officer should receive counselling. The Karnataka government must consider conducting a training programme for all its police officers to sensitise them about such cases. The bench observed that it is desirable for all the police departments to lay down guidelines for handling such cases.

The highest court in the country regretted that the parents of the woman opposed the choice of their daughter even though both the man and the woman were highly qualified, independent professionals and Hindus, but not of the same caste and not from the same state.

Quashing the FIR, the bench stated that once two adults choose to be with each other and have a consensual relationship, they cannot be made accused in a criminal case only on account of their parents’ refusal to accept their relationship.

“We hope that the parents of the petitioner no.1 (woman) will have better sense and accept the marriage to re-establish social ties with their daughter and her husband. That, we think, is the only way forward,” recorded the court in its order.

At least five BJP-ruled states—Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Karnataka and Gujarat have either passed laws, or are mulling laws designed to prevent “forcible conversions” through marriage, commonly referred to as “love jihad” laws.

The law in Uttar Pradesh, approved on November 28 as the Prohibition of Unlawful Religious Conversions Ordinance, includes provisions against “unlawful religious conversion,” declares a marriage null and void if the sole intention was to “change a girl’s religion.” The UP police made 35 arrests, and filed a dozen FIRs in the first month after the ordinance was passed.

The UP ordinance and the law in Madhya Pradesh passed last December propose sentences of up to 10 years in prison for those who break the law.

On January 6, the Supreme Court agreed to hear petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the laws passed in the name of love jihad. A bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde refused, however, to stay the controversial provisions of the laws and issued notices to both state governments on two different petitions.The pleas, filed by advocate Vishal Thakre and others and an NGO ‘Citizen for Justice and Peace’, have challenged the constitutional validity of the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Religious Conversion Ordinance, 2020 and the Uttarakhand Freedom of Religion Act, 2018 which regulate religious conversions of inter-faith marriages.Senior advocate C U Singh, appearing for the NGO, said some provisions of these laws are “oppressive and horrible” in nature and require prior consent of the government to marry which is “absolutely obnoxious”, Singh added.

The plea ‘Citizen for Justice and Peace’ said that both the legislations violate Articles 21 and 25, as it empowers the State to suppress an individual’s personal liberty and the freedom to practice religion of one’s choice.

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SLFP: PCoI has exceeded its mandate and failed to address critical issues

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

President Maithripala Sirisena appointed the PCoI on Easter Sunday Attacks to identify local and international forces behind the attacks, establish the motives of those groups and to punish those who were directly and indirectly responsible for the attacks, but those issues had not been addressed by the PCoI’s final report, the SLFP said yesterday.

 SLFP General Secretary, Dayasiri Jayasekera said that the party’s Executive Committee had discussed the report in depth on Thursday and decided that the Commission had not addressed the issues it had been appointed to probe.

On the other hand, some of its recommendations have gone beyond its mandate.

Issuing a press release, the SLFP said that while the PCoI observed that former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had been soft on Islamic extremism and his government had not taken active steps in combating extremism, however, the PCoI had treated Wickremesinghe with kid gloves while taking a tough stance on former President Maithripala Sirisena.

 “The former President took over the Ministry of Law and Order on 30 October 2018, i.e. only five months and twenty days before the attacks. None of those who held the post before have been accused of anything. The report also focuses little on those who planned the attacks, those who financed the attacks and those who protected the attackers. Moreover, although there is evidence to prove that the weapons found in Muslim mosques after the attacks had been brought in by ships; the report had not investigated it in-depth,” the SLFP said.

 The party also said Pulastini Rajendran alias Sara Jasmine, the wife of Mohommadu Hastun, a suicide bomber, had fled to India sometime after the attacks. However, the Commission had not only paid any attention to it but also had ignored what could have been found.

 “The mandate set by President Sirisena says to look at current or former state officials who are directly or indirectly linked to these incidents. There is no mandate for the Commission to look into whether the head of the state or ministers have fulfilled their constitutional duties. Thus, the recommendations on the former President are beyond the PCoI’s mandate. The pages 292 and 293 of the report state that President Sirisena had instructed the Police to arrest NTJ leader Zahran Hashim at the National Security Council. However, they also insist that the former President had not carried out its duties and responsibilities. Page 296 says that the former President not appointing an acting Defence Minister when he left for India and Singapore was a violation of the Constitution. However, in another place the Commissioners say that making such appointments is at the President’s discretion,” the SLFP said in a press release.

 The SLFP also states that the former President had carried out his duties and the report has ample evidence of it. Thus, there is no way that criminal proceedings can be instituted against him.

 “The concept that criminal proceedings can be instituted against a President for not carrying out some duty sets a bad precedent and is a slight to the power given to the President by the Constitution. The US and New Zealand security agencies had received information about 9/11 and the Christchurch shootings but the heads of the states were not charged. We vehemently refuse the allegations against the former President and reject many of the other recommendations too.”

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Dubai haven for majority of Lankan fugitives with INTERPOL red notices

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By Pradeep Prasanna Samarakoon

Police had obtained INTERPOL Red Notices against 24 drug traffickers hiding overseas, police spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana said.

In addition, DIG Rohana said INTERPOL blue notices had been issued for 87 wanted criminals who were currently residing overseas.

The DIG said a majority of the suspects were reported to be hiding in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, while some were in neighbouring India and European countries.

The country’s law enforcement agencies had seized over 1,610 kilos of heroin in 2020 alone, the DIG noted, adding that last year 33,125 suspects had been arrested for possessing heroin and 1,400 others for having in their possession synthetic drugs.

About 61,550 persons had been arrested for narcotic-related offences, in 2020, said the Police Spokesperson, noting that intelligence reports had suggested there was a shortage of heroin in the local drug market due to continuous raids carried out by law enforcement authorities. That had led to a rise in the use of synthetic drugs, such as ICE, he added.

INTERPOL assistance had been sought to extradite 129 Lankans wanted for various crimes, he said.

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Organise State Vesak festival at Nagadeepa with those of other religions- PM 

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Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa who is also the Minister of Buddhasasana, Religious and Cultural Affairs has instructed authorities to hold this year’s State Vesak Festival at the Nagadeepa Raja Maha Viharaya in Jaffna focusing on the Northern and Eastern Provinces.

The Prime Minister at a meeting held at Temple Trees on Thursday evening had given instructions to the Secretary to the Ministry of Buddhasasana, Cultural and Religious Affairs Prof Kapila Gunawardena to organize the State Vesak Festival together with those following other religions.

Accordingly, the Departments of Hindu, Christian and Muslim Affairs under the Ministry of Buddha Sasana, Religious and Cultural Affairs, will join in the efforts to organize the event.

Among those present were Sanghanayake of the Northern Province Chief Incumbent of the Nagadeepa Vihara Ven Dr. Dharmakeerthi Sri Navadagala Padaumakitthi Nayaka Thera, Sanghanayake of the Eastern and Thamankaduwa Ven Munhene Mettharama thera, Sanghanayake of the Matara-Hambantota districts Adrahere Kassapa Nayaka thera, State Minister Vidura Wickramanayake, MP Suren Raghawan and officials of the Ministry of Buddha Sasana, Religious and Cultural Affairs.

 

 

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