The Court assessed the allegation that Hadiya was deceived into marrying her husband Mr. Shafin Jahan and forcibly converted to Islam. The Court found that the allegation, which was made by her parents, was clearly false.
Hadiya Jahan (originally Akhila Ashokan) converted to Islam during her medical studies in Coimbatore. She then met a Muslim man named Shafin Jahan and married him at the age of a twenty-five.
When Akhila’s father, Mr. K.M. Ashokan, found out about the marriage, he filed a Writ Petition in the Kerala High Court. He alleged that Hadiya had been misled and forced to become a Muslim. He also alleged that Akhila’s husband had links to extremist Muslim organizations. Hadiya maintained throughout the High Court proceedings that her conversion to Islam as well as marriage to Shafin Jahan was of her own volition.
However, on 24th May 2017, High Court Justices Surendra Mohan Kuriakose and Abraham Mathew, annulled the marriage and called it a ‘sham’. Their judgment observed that ‘her [Hadiya’s] marriage being the most important decision in her life, can only be taken only with the active involvement of her parents’. The Justices granted Mr. Ashokan custody over Hadiya and ignored the fact Hadiya, a legal adult, did not consent to parental custody.
Subsequently, Hadiya’s husband approached the Supreme Court to challenge the annulment. On 8th March 2018, the three-judge bench of Supreme Court set aside the annulment. On 9th April 2018, it delivered the judgment, holding that the Kerala High Court could not use Article 226 to annul the marriage of an adult.
The Bench was initially headed by Chief Justice Khehar, who took the extraordinary step of ordering the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to investigate Hadiya's marriage. CJI Khehar retired during the hearings on 27th August. Chief Justice Misra took over from him. CJI Misra, perhaps recognizing the problematic nature of the NIA investigation, never called for the NIA to present its report during the hearings. Furthermore, the NIA investigation finds no mention in the Court's judgement.
Does the High Court have the power to annul the marriage of an adult under Article 226?