“Priyanka, Salamat not Hindu-Muslim For Us”: Allahabad HC’s Decision Gives Us Hope in this Time of “Love Jihad”

Social Commentary

“Priyanka, Salamat not Hindu-Muslim For Us”: Allahabad HC’s Decision Gives Us Hope in this Time of “Love Jihad”

Illustration: Shruti Yatam

As the debate around love jihad rages on, the Allahabad High Court has delivered a timely and welcome judgement. A case filed against a Muslim man by the parents of his wife, who converted to Islam last year to marry him, has been cancelled by the court. The HC overturned a previous decision by a single-bench judge that said religious conversions for the sake of marriage are unacceptable, saying that the verdict was “bad in law”.

“Interference in a personal relationship would constitute a serious encroachment into the right to freedom of choice of the two individuals,” the court observed in a verdict.

“We do not see Priyanka Kharwar and Salamat Ansari as Hindu and Muslim, rather as two grown-up individuals who – out of their own free will and choice – are living together peacefully and happily over a year. The Courts and the Constitutional Courts in particular are enjoined to uphold the life and liberty of an individual guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India,” said a two-judge bench.

Salamat Ansari and Priyanka Kharwar got married in August last year. The marriage was against the wishes of Priyanka’s parents. She converted to Islam and changed her name to “Alia” just before the wedding. In the same month, Priyanka’s parents filed an FIR against Salamat, accusing him of “kidnapping” and “abduction to compel a marriage”. They included the stringent POCSO Act, claiming that their daughter was a minor when she married.

The High Court ruled on Salamat’s petition requesting that the FIR be cancelled. “The right to live with a person of his/her choice irrespective of religion professed by them, is intrinsic to right to life and personal liberty,” the High Court said in the 14-page order, rejecting arguments by the UP government as well as the woman’s parents.

The verdict has been celebrated for its tone as well as timing, as the love jihad debate has taken centre stage in political discourse. Many prominent women from media to politics praised the judgement for making it clear that adult women are free to make choices in their life.

The Allahabad High Court has also been praised for being the constitutional watchdog in several cases and delivering sound judgements.

The love jihad debate will continue to go on in polarising speeches and targeted hashtag campaigns, but is heartening to know that the courts are still around to protect the rights of citizens.