Serious Threat Of Honour Killing : Allahabad HC Orders Release Of Muslim Woman Who Married Hindu Men From Custody Of Her Father

                                               In a latest judgment titled Shikha @ Sheeba vs State of U.P. and 4 others in Habeas Corpus Writ Petition No. 502 of 2020, the Allahabad High Court as recently as on October 8, 2020 in a well-worded, well-reasoned and well-framed manner  directed the Senior Superintendent of Police, Kanpur Nagar to take out a girl named Shikha @ Sheeba who is a Muslim woman who had converted to Hinduism to marry a Hindu man named Rohit Rathore from the custody of her brother and father. This direction was made keeping in view the serious threat of honour killing which the girl named Shikha @ Sheeba faced from her brother and father. The Bench of Justice JJ Munir further ordered that she should be housed at the Nari Niketan, Kanpur Nagar in safety and security till the time she is produced before the Court. Very rightly so!

To start with, Justice JJ Munir of the Allahabad High Court who authored this notable judgment sets the ball rolling by first and foremost pointing out in the introductory para that, “Heard Sri Adya Prasad Tiwari, learned counsel for the petitioner and Sri Vinod Kant, learned Additional Advocate General assisted by Sri Arvind Kumar, learned AGA appearing on behalf of the State.”

To put things in perspective, it is then pointed out in the next para that, “It is submitted by the learned counsel for the petitioner that Shikha @ Sheeba daughter of Mukhtar Ali has married Rohit Rathaur S/o Ram Sewak Rathaur (who has effectively filed this petition on her behalf) according to the Hindu rites on 03.07.2020 at the Arya Samaj Mandir, Rawatpur Gaon, Kanpur Nagar after converting to Hinduism at the same Arya Samaj Mandir on 03.07.2020 earlier in the day. The parties’ marriage has been duly registered under the U.P. Marriage Registration Rules, 2017 on 09.07.2020 at the office of the Marriage Registration Rules, 2017 on 09.07.2020 at the office of the Marriage Registration Office at Serial No. 468, SRO Office – Sadar Fourth, District Kanpur Nagar. A copy of the said certificate of registration is also on record.”

As it turned out, it is then pointed out further in this ruling that, “The FIR has been lodged in this case by the detenu’s father, Mukhtar Ali, wherein he has indicated the detenu’s age to be 22 years, giving rise to Case Crime No. 293 of 2020 State vs. Rohit Rathaur under Section 366 IPC, P.S. Bilhaur, District Kanpur Nagar.”

As a corollary, it is then pointed out by the Court that, “In connection with the said case, the learned counsel for the petitioner has invited the Court’s attention to the detenu’s stand recorded before the learned Magistrate under Section 164 Cr.P.C.”

While elaborating on the statement made under Section 164 Cr.P.C., the Court then points out that, “In the said statement, the detenu has said that she had left home because she was annoyed with her mother. She wants to marry Rohit and stay with him.”

In other words, what this clearly signifies is that the detenu went of her own free will. She was not coerced into submission. She of her own free volition wanted to marry Rohit. The Court also points out further clarifying that, “No one has taken her away by blandishment, and that Rohit has not done anything contrary to her wish by force.”

Furthermore, the Court then points out that, “It is stated in paragraph no. 14 that the S.H.O., P.S. Bilhaur, Kanpur Nagar by trick and in connivance with the 4th respondent, handed over Shikha @ Sheeba into the hands of her father, after she had spoken exculpatory in favour of Rohit. Since then, she is in illegal confinement of her father and brother.” How can all this be ignored? The Court had to take all this into account.

Going ahead, it is then pointed out by the Court that, “It is also averred in paragraph no. 15 that the detenu called up Rohit over Mobile Nos. 7572053986 and 7523058325, informing him that she is being tortured by respondent nos. 4 & 5, and that she may be murdered at any time. She has requested Rohit to rescue her.”

To be sure, the Court then makes it known that, “It is averred that it is on her instruction received over telephone that Rohit has moved this petition. It is averred in paragraph no. 16 that on account of the religious barrier between parties, the 4th and 5th respondent, who are brother and father of Shikha @ Sheeba are so embarrassed and annoyed that Shikha @ Sheeba is facing a potent threat of being murdered at their hand in consequence of an act of honour killing. Learned counsel for the petitioner states that it is not just about rescuing Shikha @ Sheeba from illegal confinement and preventing her from becoming a victim of honour killing that this Court must intervene.”

Not stopping here, the Court then says that, “Admit. Issue notice. Notice be served upon respondent nos. 4 and 5 through all urgent means of communication through the learned Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, Kanpur Nagar returnable on 12.10.2020.”

Moving on, it is then further directed by the Allahabad High Court that, “The Senior Superintendent of Police, Kanpur Nagar is ordered to cause Shikha @ Sheeba daughter of Mukhtar Ali presently in the custody of Imran Hasan S/o Mukhtar Ali and Mukhtar Ali S/o Maqbool Ali, resident of Ward No. 22, Lal Bahadur Sastri Nagar, Bilhaur, Kanpur Nagar, Bilhaur, Kanpur Nagar to be produced before this Court on 12.10.2020 at 02:00 p.m., without fail.”

For the sake of clarification, the Court then holds that, “The Senior Superintendent of Police, Kanpur Nagar shall observe all protocol relating to prevailing COVID-19 pandemic proliferation and shall ensure the safety of all concerned while undertaking the aforesaid exercise. List the matter in the additional cause list on 12.10.2020 at 02:00 p.m.”

Without mincing any words, Justice JJ Munir of the Allahabad High Court then unequivocally holds that, “Since, there is a serious threat of Shikha @ Sheeba becoming a victim of honour killing, it is preferable to err on the side of caution. The Senior Superintendent of Police, Kanpur Nagar is ordered to forthwith take out Shikha @ Sheeba from the custody of Imran Hasan S/o Mukhtar Ali and Mukhtar Ali S/o Maqbool Ali, respondent nos. 4 and 5 and house her at the Nari Niketan, Kanpur Nagar in safety and security, until time that she is produced before this Court, in compliance with the rule nisi.”

Finally, it is then directed by Justice JJ Munir of the Allahabad High Court that, “Let this order be communicated to the learned Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, Kanpur Nagar, the Senior Superintendent of Police, Kanpur Nagar, the Director General of Police, Lucknow, U.P., the Principal Secretary (Home), Lucknow, U.P. and the In-charge, Nari Niketan, Kanpur Nagar by the Joint Registrar (Compliance), forthwith. Let a copy of this order be also provided to Sri Vinod Kant, learned Additional Advocate General by the Office, today.”

It would be premature to conclude what the final judgment would be in this case. We have to keep our fingers crossed till the case is concluded finally. The next hearing is on October 12.

But one thing is clear: Allahabad High Court has given temporary relief to the Muslim woman who married a Hindu man from the custody of her father and has also acknowledged that there is a serious threat of honour killing. It has also accorded paramount consideration to the safety and wishes of the woman which is certainly a step in the right direction. There can be no two views on this!

Needless to say, this order of Allahabad High Court has to be complied with unconditionally and unambiguously. Every adult man and woman is free to do what he/she likes and especially regarding marriage they are free to marry as per their own choice! No denying it!

Sanjeev Sirohi