In a significant development which will certainly go a long way in promoting gender equality, the Allahabad High Court has as recently as on 11 November 2021 in a learned, laudable, landmark and latest judgment titled Mamta Devi & Anr. Vs State of UP Thru. Prin. Secy. Home, Lucknow & Ors. in Misc. Bench No. – 25957 of 2021 came most decisively to the rescue of a married woman who had moved the High Court with her protection plea claiming that she is facing threats from her family members and therefore, sought direction to the police authorities to protect her and another man with whom she is presently residing. We ought to note that the Bench of Justice Devendra Kumar Upadhyaya and Justice Saroj Yadav in this case had directed the police authorities especially the Superintendent of Police, Gonda to protect the life and liberty of the petitioners. The Bench had observed quite categorically that, “Indisputably she is major and highly educated and as such, she has legally protected right to exercise her own choice of deciding where to live; where to go, and where to reside.”
To start with, this brief, brilliant, bold and balanced judgment authored by Justice Hon’ble Devendra Kumar Upadhyaya and Justice Hon’ble Mrs Saroj Yadav of Allahabad High Court sets the ball rolling by first and foremost observing in the opening para that, “Heard learned counsel for the petitioners and learned A.G.A. for the State. Pursuant to our order dated 09.11.2021, petitioner No.1 Mamta Devi and petitioner No.2 Janki Prasad are present before this Court.”
While elaborating on the facts of the case, the Bench then puts forth in the next para that, “Petitioner No.1, Mamta Devi is major and has a Post Graduate degree to her credit. She has stated before us that she had earlier even taught in an Intermediate institution and that she wants to pursue her studies further. However, her family members, especially the parents, have been creating some hurdles in her pursuing further studies. She has also stated before the Court that her family members even earlier attempted to harm her physically and thus she does not want to live with them. It has also been stated by the Petitioner no. 1 before the Court that though she is married, however, at the moment for certain reasons, she is not living with her husband and finding some protection with petitioner no. 2 Janki Prasad, she is presently residing with him. She has categorically stated that she has been facing threats from her family members and accordingly this writ petition has been instituted by her along with the petitioner no. 2 seeking a direction to the police authorities to protect the petitioners and further to ensure that they are not harassed at the instance of the family members of the petitioner no. 1. It has been stated by the petitioner no. 1 as also by the petitioner no. 2 before the Court that younger brother of the petitioner no. 2 was summoned by the police authorities of Police Station Chhapia, District Gonda and he was harassed there at the instance of the family members of the petitioner no. 1.”
To put things in perspective, the Bench then enunciates that, “Learned State Counsel has received certain instructions from Sub Inspector Kameshwar Rai, Police Station Chhapia, District Gonda, which are contained in the letter dated 08.11.2021, the said instructions are taken on record. On the basis of the said instructions, learned State Counsel has submitted that the father of the petitioner no. 1 had made a complaint to the police authorities of Police Station Chhapia that petitioner no. 1 had gone with petitioner no. 2 and in connection with probing the allegations made in the said complaint, the brother of the petitioner no. 1 was summoned, however, after preliminary interrogation/enquiry, he was let off. Petitioner no. 1 however denies that brother of the petitioner no. 2 was summoned by the police authorities only for enquiry purpose. She has stated that police authorities are acting at the instance of her family members and in fact the younger brother of the petitioner no. 2 was unnecessarily harassed. She has also submitted before the Court that some Chowki Incharge of Police Post Babhnan, District Gonda had called her on her mobile number and talked to her improperly.”
Furthermore, the Bench then states that, “In the instructions contained in the letter dated 08.11.2021, it has been stated that petitioners are not wanted in any case neither are they being illegally harassed and further that in case any application is moved by them to the police station, the legal action which may be permissible under law shall be taken.”
Most sagaciously and also most significantly, what forms the cornerstone of this extremely commendable, cogent, composed, convincing and courageous judgment is then postulated by holding that, “Having heard the learned counsel for the petitioners, the petitioner nos. 1 and 2 and also learned A.G.A., what we find is that petitioner no. 1 is major and a well educated lady. Though she is married, however, for certain personal reasons, presently she is not residing with her husband or her in-laws. However, such decision of petitioner no. 1 is impermissible to be interfered with by any one including her family members. Any such attempt from any corner either from her family members or even from police authorities will be direct infringement and interference in her fundamental rights vested in her by the Constitution namely right to life and liberty both. Indisputably she is major and highly educated and as such, she has legally protected right to exercise her own choice of deciding where to live, where to go and where to reside.”
As a corollary, the Bench then observes that, “In the aforesaid circumstances, we disposed of this writ petition finally with a direction to the Superintendent of Police, Gonda to ensure that life and liberty of the petitioners are secured and further that no interference in the choice expressed and exercised by the petitioner no. 2 is caused from any corner either from her family members or from the police authorities.”
To state the ostensible, the Bench then very rightly observes that, “It is needless to say that it shall be the duty of the police authorities especially the Superintendent of Police, Gonda to protect the life and liberty of the petitioners and see to it that no harm physically or otherwise is caused by them or by any one including the family members of the petitioner no. 1. We hope and trust that police authorities of District Gonda shall act accordingly.”
For the sake of clarity, the Bench then hastens to add that, “We, at this juncture, also feel it appropriate to observe that any observation made or direction given in this order will have no impact or bearing whatsoever on the issues which appears to be in existence between the petitioner no. 1 and her husband.”
Finally, the Bench then concludes by holding that, “Learned A.G.A. shall communicate this order to the Superintendent of Police, Gonda as also to the S.H.O. concerned, forthwith. Office is directed to provide the certified copy of this order free of charge to the learned A.G.A. at the earliest.”
In a nutshell, this extremely brilliant, bold and balanced judgment leaves not even an iota of doubt that any woman who is major and highly educated can decide where to go and reside. She has an unfettered right to do so. It was also made clear by the Bench of Hon’ble Justice Mrs Saroj Yadav and Hon’ble Justice Devendra Kumar Upadhyaya that even her own parents cannot interfere with this indivisible right of her which is in her exclusive domain and it is at her discretion that she does what she wishes to do in her life!
Of course, this notable ruling thus makes it abundantly clear that such decision of woman who is petitioner no. 1 is impermissible to be interfered with by anyone including her own family members. We thus see quite clearly that Allahabad High Court very rightly orders the police protection for a married woman who was residing with a man who is petitioner no. 2 Janki Prasad and who is other than her husband as she is finding some protection with him and feels appropriate to do so. This extremely commendable judgment very rightly, rationally and robustly vindicates the unfettered right of a woman to decide where to go and reside.
All in all, it certainly merits no reiteration that the Allahabad High Court has thus made it very clear in this learned judgment that even the parents of a woman as also her other family members have no right to interfere with this exclusive right of a woman to reside where she wants and go where she wants to go in any manner! It would certainly be in the fitness of things to state that all the parents of a woman as also her family members would definitely do well to always bear this in mind unfailingly whenever they find themselves objecting to a woman of their respective family taking her own decision in her life pertaining to where to go and reside so that they don’t land up similarly on the wrong side of the law with High Court passing judgment against what they desire as we see in this leading case also! No denying it!