Rajasthan HC takes Rajasthan back two centuries

Remember the stories of Rajasthan as the land of valor, where honor is more important than life? Well… that still isn’t too far from the truth. To date, women and men without power suffer at the hands of those with power. This horrifying email from a reader shares some of the environment growing up in an “honorable” family in Rajasthan. Just establishing that Rajasthan is no easy place to be to go against the family. Other news of honor related deaths – killings and suicides are routine.

In this kind of society, the Arya Samaj was a bastion of legitimacy and hope for many who wanted to marry but were not certain of parental approval. People who could “run away and marry” and perhaps return when things calmed down somewhat, or in the case of difficult families, not return at all.

The easy process and group weddings made it affordable to the poor.

In a recent ruling, the Rajasthan High Court has put a ban on any such love marriage unless parents of both the bride and bridegroom are informed through police about the intention of their children to enter into wedlock and if they object, the couple must produce three “prominent persons” from each side as witnesses. The court further directed that at least six days time be given to the parents to take a conscious decision on such a”love marriage”.

“The pious purpose of the Arya Samaj Mission has been lost by the local units in the state and they are becoming a tool for pacification of ‘greed and lust’ for girl and boy and once it is over, the marriage lands in courts resulting in irreversible breakdowns. We fail to appreciate the Arya Samaj becoming a tool of such pacification. The persons running Arya Samaj are minting money by such marriages resulting in a serious problem in society,” observed Justice Kothari Sajjan Singh.

While I understand that thoughtless, hormone laden marriages help no one, I believe that stupidity, greed or lust are currently legal in India and individual rights, if at all love marriages are that. This kind of moral policing has led to more deaths for honor than anything else. It is extremely shameful that a court violates human rights blatantly to restrict the freedoms of young people and compromise their safety out of a sense of upholding “the pious purpose” of an Arya Samaj that has absolutely no problem with these marriages. In other words, the court claims to know Arya Samaj better than the Arya Samaj, the circumstances of marriage better than the people marrying, and imposes restrictions based on their idea of “serious problem” in society.

If at all there were research that showed that marriages from the Arya Samaj had a higher rate of divorce than other love marriages, it would still be an individual’s right to marry and divorce according to their needs in life. I married an older man at 18 to escape an abusive family. It was a mistake, sure, but I did escape my abusive home and it was my mistake to make. No such reference to conclusive evidence that the so called  has been made in any case. Arranged marriages having a lower rate of divorce is no surprise, but arranged marriages also have higher rates of dowry related harassment and deaths. Would you ban arranged marriages for that?

As for the court having a problem with marriages landing up in courts for divorce, my maid doesn’t like dishes landing up in the sink for cleaning. It isn’t a popularity contest. If you don’t like your job, find another one, pressurize the govt for awareness creation so “less dishes land up for cleaning” but you can’t “ban eating rice because many dishes are from eating rice”.

The ban was supposedly prompted because a 34 year old man married an 18 year old girl. 18 is legal in India for giving consent. There are no riders for parental approval. The parents forced the girl back after marriage, and there doesn’t seem to be any misconduct involved at least from the news reports other than the parents taking her back forcibly, forcing the  filing of a Habeas Corpus petition by 34-year-old Buddha Ram Meena who entered into such a marriage with 18-year-old Maina Bhatt. It is entirely shocking that a court can supposedly uphold the forcible removal of a married woman from her husband’s house AND impose restrictions on their method of marriage!

34 years old isn’t exactly like a 54 year old! 34 year old men look and act young, and while the difference in age is large, it isn’t exactly impossible for them to fall in love with 18 year olds!

On the other hand, this ruling has legitimized the kidnapping of a girl from her married home in a land where honor killings still happen. Will the court admit culpability if the girl is killed for honor, commits suicide or otherwise comes to harm, including remaining unmarried for life because of this “scandal”? What about the lives now in danger because of hostile families seeing their marriage as a very public deadline for either banning (and they have been given that right now) or preventing through more extreme means?

Where earlier people could marry and present as fait accompli or run away till the anger died down, this ruling forces people to endure resistance, possible dangers, turns the wedding into an open challenge and defiance, And then it also makes sure that escaping will not work, since all the parents have to do is deny approval and land up at the place of the wedding to prevent it.

In pretending to protect the piousness of the Arya Samaj, the Court has successfully flatlined it as a viable option for love marriages where family may be a threat. How is this different from the Khap panchayats?

In the meanwhile, the increasingly expensive “cheap” option of Arya Samaj draws no restrictions – who actually cares about the poor people wanting to get married?

The better options for love marriages for those with dangerous families would be:

  • Not marrying – this is tops. Even if you live in for long, and later separate, the courts have started treating it like a kind of marriage if it comes to a break up. Even if you end up divorcing, by then this will only improve. It makes their job tougher, but the way I see it, they asked for it.
  • Change religion. You can be a 64 year old Muslim/Christian and happily marry an 18 year old girl, and show me the court that will challenge that. Downside – it is a stupid idea, because it won’t feel like any marriage you recognize – different rituals.
  • Run away and register for a court marriage – the witnesses can be anyone. Absolutely anyone. Indeed, many people stand outside courts to offer such services.
  • Do a normal Hindu marriage with any couple sitting in for parents – the priests are fine with it.
  • Don’t do an Arya Samaj marriage, because an honor supporting judge has made it too dangerous.

It seems to me that the court is taking Rajasthan back to times when people were the property of parents, and village elders ruled according the rights of parents to own them. Shame!

Update: I have been waiting for an online version of the judgment to become available, but nothing so far. If you find, please comment, and I will add it in.

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Comments 12

  • Yes, It is just like that. I am from Rajasthan. want to marry a girl with different caste. but what can i do now. even if my parents are ready but not her’s. this decision is completely against my fundamental Right of Freedom. but what can i do because if i file a case against it, she would be getting married by the time my case is decided… this is my indian judicial system. and if i try to take consent then either i or my family will face serious safety issues.

    i am complete mess. can anybody help me.

    pls if you can.
    ranjanmehta21@gmail.com

    • Run away to a city, get married, stay there. After first grandchild, invite some better relatives to meet in city. Don’t go back till all relatives start accepting and invite for some family function. Then inform police and only then go.

  • Yes, It is just like that. I am from Rajasthan. want to marry a girl with different caste. but what can i do now. even if my parents are ready but not her’s. this decision is completely against my fundamental Right of Freedom. but what can i do because if i file a case against it, she would be getting married by the time my case is decided… this is my indian judicial system. and if i try to take consent then either i or my family will face serious safety issues.

    i am complete mess. can anybody help me.

    pls if you can.
    ranjanmehta21@gmail.com

    • Run away to a city, get married, stay there. After first grandchild, invite some better relatives to meet in city. Don’t go back till all relatives start accepting and invite for some family function. Then inform police and only then go.

  • On June 23, 2008 Justice K.S. Ahluwalia of the Punjab and Haryana High Court made a revealing observation while simultaneously hearing 10 cases pertaining to marriages between young couples aged 18 – 21: “The High Court is flooded with petitions where … judges of this Court have to answer for the right of life and liberty to married couples. The State is a mute spectator. When shall the State awake from its slumber [and] for how long can Courts provide solace and balm by disposing of such cases?”

    source:-
    HONOUR KILLINGS AND THE NEED FOR NEW LEGISLATIONRavi Kant , Advocate Supreme Court of IndiaRead the full article here http://indialawyers.wordpress.com/2010/07/03/honour-killings-and-the-need-for-new-legislation/ 

  • On June 23, 2008 Justice K.S. Ahluwalia of the Punjab and Haryana High Court made a revealing observation while simultaneously hearing 10 cases pertaining to marriages between young couples aged 18 – 21: “The High Court is flooded with petitions where … judges of this Court have to answer for the right of life and liberty to married couples. The State is a mute spectator. When shall the State awake from its slumber [and] for how long can Courts provide solace and balm by disposing of such cases?”

    source:-
    HONOUR KILLINGS AND THE NEED FOR NEW LEGISLATIONRavi Kant , Advocate Supreme Court of IndiaRead the full article here http://indialawyers.wordpress.com/2010/07/03/honour-killings-and-the-need-for-new-legislation/ 

  • Unfortunately it seems to me most of the alternatives you suggest are either not viable or legal or equally fraught with danger.

    Let me start with the third and probably the most attractive option (on paper at least) which you mention i.e., the option of going to court and apply for a court marriage under the special marriage act or the respective personal Laws.

    You would be in for rude surprises. My personal experience in UP and MP is this, they have a unwritten law in place:- surprise o surprise, it is “get a letter of consent from your respective families.” 

    At one point out of exasperation I had tried to argue with a Marriage Registrar (and his sidekick whose job is to  smoothen or roughen things up depending on whether  you are willing to pay a bribe) so what if I were like 60 and my the girl I want to marry is 60 too and our parents are no more ? They were rather unperturbed and pat came the reply then you have to get consent from your guardians.  

    From my personal experience I can tell (5yrs back) this LAW was in place in Gwalior, Jhansi, Kanpur, Allahabad. I had talked to many such hapless fellows during those six months when I tried to get married in a court (without paying a bribe) it was not possible. Its not that I was an ignorant rustic teenager, I was around 30 something doing my doctoral studies in an IIT but no Sir, you cant get married without your parents consent period.

    Furious, I had gone to  Allahabad and hired a Lawyer but none of us were staying in Allahabad or domiciled there so that didnot work ( could have, I was offered the option but declined to pay a bribe). 

    The harassment has many forms, they actually send a letter home from the court. Then there are vigilante groups who will harass and intimidate you in case of inter caste or inter-religion marriages. I remember Suhasisni Haider writing about her experience will try to find the link.

    Regarding your first option:- unless you are a real dabanng kind of a person is that possible ? Its not like metro where you are anonymous. 

    2nd option If I remember there was a verdict about changing religion for the express purpose of getting married being not permissible. No, not everyone is as lucky as Hemamalini and Dharmendra and rarely does our society so discreet. 

    3rd option During those six months I realised it was much easier to get a gun license in UP and MP than getting married without parental consent.

    4th option does not have a legal validity. The parents can exert pressure and easily force the couple to forsake their relationship. You have no legal rights to seek Redressal. What can be worse the girl is in a vulnerable situation, the guy can easily deny having ever getting married. To be fair its not always the guy who backs down.

    5th The last option works this way. Desperate and exhausted you seek refuge and decide to go  for Arya Samaj Marriage. The priests and the authorities would agree, the marriage would take place but if you ask the priests and required authorities of the Samaj the required signature so that you can get the marriage registered in Court Then they ask for a huge amount of money. ( according to a recent SC directive its absolutely necessary and given the vulnerability of the couple its most prudent as sans it the marriage has little if at all any legal validity) Just  a week back a friends friend was trying to find out in Greater Noida the priest asked 14k for marriage and registration. Sans registration the dakshina was around 1/5 th if I remember correctly. 

    When I had asked the pandit and the Samaj people off the record they said they have to pay a certain amount to the marriage registrar. I believe they were telling the truth.

    so what does one do ? 

    Just so that you dont start saying everything is bleak, there was a recent Delhi High court directive in which the requirement for either party being domiciled for atleast an year was relaxed. But then there is a world outside Delhi

    I will try to search appropriate links and judgments as and when I find them.

    Oh I forget, I submitted a complaint in a GOI site for grievance redressal regarding this unlawful  practice of asking for parental consent by the marriage registrars when an applicant applies for marriage under the special marriage act, they sent me a letter acknowledging the receipt of my complaint that was the last I heard from them.

     

  • Unfortunately it seems to me most of the alternatives you suggest are either not viable or legal or equally fraught with danger.

    Let me start with the third and probably the most attractive option (on paper at least) which you mention i.e., the option of going to court and apply for a court marriage under the special marriage act or the respective personal Laws.

    You would be in for rude surprises. My personal experience in UP and MP is this, they have a unwritten law in place:- surprise o surprise, it is “get a letter of consent from your respective families.” 

    At one point out of exasperation I had tried to argue with a Marriage Registrar (and his sidekick whose job is to  smoothen or roughen things up depending on whether  you are willing to pay a bribe) so what if I were like 60 and my the girl I want to marry is 60 too and our parents are no more ? They were rather unperturbed and pat came the reply then you have to get consent from your guardians.  

    From my personal experience I can tell (5yrs back) this LAW was in place in Gwalior, Jhansi, Kanpur, Allahabad. I had talked to many such hapless fellows during those six months when I tried to get married in a court (without paying a bribe) it was not possible. Its not that I was an ignorant rustic teenager, I was around 30 something doing my doctoral studies in an IIT but no Sir, you cant get married without your parents consent period.

    Furious, I had gone to  Allahabad and hired a Lawyer but none of us were staying in Allahabad or domiciled there so that didnot work ( could have, I was offered the option but declined to pay a bribe). 

    The harassment has many forms, they actually send a letter home from the court. Then there are vigilante groups who will harass and intimidate you in case of inter caste or inter-religion marriages. I remember Suhasisni Haider writing about her experience will try to find the link.

    Regarding your first option:- unless you are a real dabanng kind of a person is that possible ? Its not like metro where you are anonymous. 

    2nd option If I remember there was a verdict about changing religion for the express purpose of getting married being not permissible. No, not everyone is as lucky as Hemamalini and Dharmendra and rarely does our society so discreet. 

    3rd option During those six months I realised it was much easier to get a gun license in UP and MP than getting married without parental consent.

    4th option does not have a legal validity. The parents can exert pressure and easily force the couple to forsake their relationship. You have no legal rights to seek Redressal. What can be worse the girl is in a vulnerable situation, the guy can easily deny having ever getting married. To be fair its not always the guy who backs down.

    5th The last option works this way. Desperate and exhausted you seek refuge and decide to go  for Arya Samaj Marriage. The priests and the authorities would agree, the marriage would take place but if you ask the priests and required authorities of the Samaj the required signature so that you can get the marriage registered in Court Then they ask for a huge amount of money. ( according to a recent SC directive its absolutely necessary and given the vulnerability of the couple its most prudent as sans it the marriage has little if at all any legal validity) Just  a week back a friends friend was trying to find out in Greater Noida the priest asked 14k for marriage and registration. Sans registration the dakshina was around 1/5 th if I remember correctly. 

    When I had asked the pandit and the Samaj people off the record they said they have to pay a certain amount to the marriage registrar. I believe they were telling the truth.

    so what does one do ? 

    Just so that you dont start saying everything is bleak, there was a recent Delhi High court directive in which the requirement for either party being domiciled for atleast an year was relaxed. But then there is a world outside Delhi

    I will try to search appropriate links and judgments as and when I find them.

    Oh I forget, I submitted a complaint in a GOI site for grievance redressal regarding this unlawful  practice of asking for parental consent by the marriage registrars when an applicant applies for marriage under the special marriage act, they sent me a letter acknowledging the receipt of my complaint that was the last I heard from them.

     

  • Nice article. Although I think this is the situation across most of rural and semi-urban India and not just Rajasthan.

    ——————————
    http://aswethinkis.wordpress.com/

  • Nice article. Although I think this is the situation across most of rural and semi-urban India and not just Rajasthan.

    ——————————
    http://aswethinkis.wordpress.com/

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