Writ Petition (crl.) 208 of 2004
AIR 2006 SC 2522; (2006) 5 SCC 475; 2006 (56) ACC 234
Justice Ashok Bhan & Justice Markandey Katju
07 July 2006
The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1951; The Indian Constitution, 1950; The Indian Penal Code, 1860
The petitioner, Lata, is a 27-year woman who was pursuing her Master’s course in Hindi at Lucknow University. Due to the sudden demise of her parents, she had been living with her brother Ajay Pratap Singh at LDA Colony, Kanpur Road, Lucknow where she finished her intermediate in 1997 and graduated in 2000. The petitioner of her own free will left her brother’s house and married Bramha Nand Gupta at Arya Samaj Mandir. The petitioner’s husband had a business in Delhi and there has been a child out of this wedlock.
On 4th November 2000, a missing person report was lodged at Sarojini Nagar Police Station, Lucknow by the petitioner’s brother. The police arrested the two sisters (Sangita Gupta, and Mamta Gupta), Rakesh Gupta (husband of Mamta Gupta), and the cousin of the petitioner’s husband (Kallu Gupta). It was alleged that Ajay Pratap Singh, Shashi Pratap Singh, and Anand Pratap Singh (brothers of the petitioner) were furious as the petitioner has undergone an inter-caste marriage. It was further alleged by the petitioner that her brothers have attacked the paternal residence of her husband, beaten up her husband’s mother and uncle, and created chaos in their house. It was also stated by the petitioner that they have cut away the harvest crops of the agricultural field of the petitioner’s husband and sold it and forcibly acquired the field. The Gupta helmet shop of the petitioner’s husband was also forcefully possessed by the petitioner’s brothers. It was further stated that they were threatening to kill the petitioner’s family members and also her.
They also filed a police report alleging the kidnapping of the petitioner against her husband and his relatives at Sarojini Nagar Police Station, Lucknow. On 17th December 2000, Mamta, Sangita, and Rakesh were arrested while Kallu Gupta was arrested on 2nd December 2000. Though there wasn’t any case instigated against them, their lives were spoiled. The petitioner went to safeguard her spouse and relatives from her brothers’ persecution. She feared for her and her husband’s lives and approached Rajasthan Women Commission, Jaipur. The Commission recorded her statement and sent it to the Superintendent of Police.
The final report was filed in Sarojini Nagar Police station by the SHO before the learned Judicial Magistrate. On 16th May 2001, the Sessions Judge granted the petitioner’s husband and his relatives, bail on the personal bond mentioning that no offence has been committed by the accused persons. It was observed that neither was there any offence nor the accused involved in the offence. The SP Lucknow informed the National Human Rights Commission that all the accused were being released from jail on 17th May 2001.
The Investigating Officer has recorded the statement of Lata Singh on 28 May 2001 where, she stated that she has married Bramha Nand Gupta at her own will and she was not coerced or forced to do so and also, she was provided with armed security. The petitioner’s statement was recorded under Section 164 of Cr.P.C. Despite her statement, the Chief Judicial Magistrate passed a committal order on 15th October 2001, ignoring the fact that the final report had already been filed by the police. A protest petition was filed against the final report alleging that the petitioner was mentally unfit. On being medically examined by the Board of Doctors of Psychiatric Centre, Jaipur, it was found that the petitioner was not suffering from any sort of mental illness.
The Fast Track Court, Lucknow, issued non-bailable warrants against all four accused, and the accused filed a petition under Section 482 Cr.P.C. in the Allahabad High Court (Lucknow Bench), which was registered as Crl. Misc. No. 520/2003. The High Court ordered the accused to appear before the Sessions Judge, who would determine if an offense was committed. It was alleged by the petitioner that there is a threat to her life. It was further stated by her that there has been irreplaceable damage to her and her husband’s family because of her brothers who had a problem with an inter-caste marriage.
Whether the writ petition under Article 32 of the Constitution of India filed with the prayer to issue a writ of certiorari and /or mandamus to quash the Sessions Trial No. 1201 of 2001 under Sections 366 and 368 of the Indian Penal Code arising out of FIR No. 336 of 2000 registered, maintainable?
The Hon’ble Supreme Court allowed the writ petition under Article 32 of the Indian Constitution and the Sessions Trial No. 1201 of 2001 under Sections 366 and 368 of the Indian Penal Code arising out of FIR No. 336 of 2000 was quashed. It was further stated by the court to the police to take action against anyone who threatens or harasses or performs any violence against the petitioner or the petitioner’s husband or relatives of the petitioner’s husband in accordance with the law. It was observed by the court that the Hindu Marriage Act does not constrain anyone from carrying out an inter-caste marriage. In light of the petition’s claims, the criminal procedure was ordered by the High Court to be launched immediately against the petitioner’s brothers and others involved.
The case of Lata Singh v. State of Uttar Pradesh & Anr is a landmark judgment that has clarified the validity of inter-caste marriages. It can be observed from the court’s decision that any person who is a major has a right to choose the partner of their choice. It can be further considered to be a part of Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. The act of violence caused by the family members due to the inter-caste or different religion marriage is considered to be a barbaric practice which is unjust as it would be a curtailment of the fundamental right of a person because of some people’s feudal mindsets.
The court further opinionated that a family having a problem with such marriages can stop maintaining social relations with the couple and leave them but they do not have the authority to instigate violence against the married couple for that. The court stated “In our opinion, such acts of violence or threats or harassment are wholly illegal and those who commit them must be severely punished. This is a free and democratic country, and once a person becomes a major, he or she can marry whosoever he/she likes.”
India’s deep-rooted casteism and religionism are obstacles to a progressive nation. It is important to protect the interests of the youth who are carrying out inter-caste or different religion marriages as they pave the way to discard the toxic discrimination present within India. This landmark judgment has clarified that the Hindu Marriage Act does not prohibit inter-caste marriage and it has made it clear that major women marrying outside their caste is not wrong or prohibited by the law.
This article is written by K. Mihira Chakravarthy, 2nd year B.A. L.L.B. student from Damodaram Sanjivayya National Law University (DSNLU).