Inter-faith couple from Uttar Pradesh gets ‘safe house’ in Delhi on court order

The couple in their plea said the parents and relatives of the woman were opposed to their alliance and had been coercing and pressuring her to marry a man of their choice.

An inter-faith couple from Shahjahanpur in Uttar Pradesh, who were constrained to leave the State fearing harassment at the hands of vigilante groups, has found a safe heaven in New Delhi in the Capital under the direction of the Delhi High Court.

Justice Anu Malhotra on Wednesday ordered the Delhi government and police to grant protection to the couple after they approached the court. Justice Malhotra also directed the Delhi government to provide them a ‘safe house’.

The couple in their plea stated that they had approached the Department of Social Welfare, Delhi government, seeking help to secure their protection and to provide them accommodation in a ‘safe house’, as was their right under law.

However, their request was not allowed and they were turned away by the Delhi government’s Social Welfare Department on December 14. They stated that the Department did not even suggest an alternative location for accommodation, thus “jeopardising the right to life, liberty and privacy”.

In their plea filed through advocates Soutik Banerjee and Aakarsh Kamra, the 25-year-old man belonging to the Muslim community and 21-year-old woman from the Hindu religion said they fell in love after they met during coaching classes for preparation of competitive exams.

Advocate Vrinda Grover, appearing for the couple, argued that the couple being educated adults desired to marry each other under the Special Marriage Act, 1954, out of their own free will and volition, without any intention of converting their religion.

Pressure from relatives

However, the parents and relatives of the woman were opposed to their alliance and had been coercing and pressuring her to marry a man of their choice, Ms. Grover said.

The woman said her parents and relatives had tortured her both physically and mentally to dissuade her from marrying her partner. She said her maternal as well as paternal uncles had “threatened to bring harm to the life and limb” to them if she “does not live and marry according to the wishes” of her father.

Under these circumstances, on December 11 the couple left their parental homes in Shahjahanpur and travelled to Delhi. Here they approached the NGO, Dhanak for Humanity, seeking legal assistance, safety and refuge for themselves since they did not have any secure place of residence.

“Despite the petitioners [couple] wishing to marry under the Special Marriage Act and not wanting to convert their respective faiths, there is a real and imminent threat that vigilante groups and people acting under their influence may target and harm the petitioners,” Ms. Grover said.

“One of the reasons as to why the petitioners were constrained to leave Shahjahanpur, Uttar Pradesh, was the threat of life, liberty and social ostracism of inter-faith unions in Uttar Pradesh,” the plea said.

They cited multiple media reports of inter-faith couples desirous of marriage facing threats, intimidation and acute harassment at the hands of vigilante groups, vested interests and even the authorities.

“Petitioners being adults and also educated are competent and capable of understanding the consequences of exercising their choice with regard to their marriage partner,” they added.

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