Supreme Court allows Hadiya to resume internship at Salem

It took the Supreme Court two hours of heated hearing with the counsel, to decide that the adult girl from Kerala, Hadiya, whom it summoned to the Court, must be heard before it rose for the day. It took the same Court two and a half hours to conclude that  as an adult individual, she has every right to decide things for herself, and free herself from the clutches of her parents.

At the end of the day, it was difficult to say whether Hadiya won the three-Judges bench to her side, by her mono syllable answers in Malayalam, which were translated to the bench by senior counsel, V. Giri or the bench simply felt the need to convert itself to appear as the champion of the little girl’s rights, despite the concerns of the respondents.

The bench, comprising the Chief Justice Dipak Misra, and Justices A. M. Khanwilkar and D. Y. Chandrachud, did not ask her about her marriage or conversion, which had stormed the Court for nearly two hours earlier. Instead, Justice Chandrachud, who mostly posed the questions, quizzed her about her education, qualification, career dreams, and her philosophy of life. The bench even asked her who she would like to have as her guardian, and when she innocently replied her husband,  Justice Chandrachud, asked Giri to explain to her that it is not possible.

As Hadiya entered the Supreme Court’s Court No.1 a little before 3 p.m. on Monday, she was the cynosure of all eyes. Surrounded by police women, she wore innocence on her face, as if it is her natural trait. Her patience through the hearing even when it appeared at one point, that the bench might not hear her, and her matter-of-fact replies to the questions posed to her from the bench, displayed her determination, and will power to face the struggles ahead with courage and fortitude.

The counsel who batted for her rights – Kapil Sibal and Indira Jaising – had not interacted with her earlier.  But they kept on persuading the bench to talk to her, and explore her world, before jumping to conclusions. They reminded the bench not talking to her, and hearing her would send a wrong message not only to her, but to others as well.  The bench, which initially called her in order to hear her, however, appeared reluctant, because of the concerns expressed by the respondents.

Shyam Divan, counsel for Hadiya’s father, K. M. Asokan, repeatedly asked the bench to talk to her in-camera and not in open court. As  the news of Hadiya asserting her right to marry a person of her choice became public as she talked to media on her way from Kerala to New Delhi,  it must have made the respondents concerned that open court hearing would in fact make her a celebrity, if not a rallying point.

Divan thus emphasised that balance has to be struck between Hadiya’s right to privacy, and the need to tackle concerns from indoctrination and forced conversion, leading to inter-communal disharmony. That was a strange argument to hear from someone who till the other day argued for the right to privacy before a nine-Judge bench, which ruled in favour of the right.

But Divan’s paranoia about communal disharmony, if Hadiya is set free, saddened Kapil Sibal. The bench’s reservations in talking to Hadiya surprised Sibal and Indira Jaising, both counsel for Hadiya’s husband, Shafin Jahan. Is the bench suspecting Hadiya’s ability to answer truthfully, because she is a woman, asked Jaising openly.  If there is a man in her place, would the bench have been still hesitant to converse was her next poser which made the bench express its strong objections to it.

The Additional Solicitor General, Maninder Singh, who represented National Investigation Agency (NIA) expressed his doubts whether the bench, by talking to her in the open court, would be able to decipher her level of indoctrination.  Indoctrination, he suggested, is a subtle phenomenon, which could be discernible only when a  person has  a sustained and focussed dialogue with the one suspected of having been the victim.

The bench, finding that the time was insufficient to address larger issues, confined itself to Hadiya’s immediate grievance about her loss of freedom, and her inaccessibility to her friends. The bench came to know that she wants to complete her internship at the Shivaraj Homeopathy Medical College in Salem in Tamil Nadu, by continuing her BHMS course, and that her ambition is to become a full-fledged homeopathic doctor.  “It is important that she is free to pursue a career, in order to stand on her own legs, and shape a future for herself”, Justice Chandrachud suggested.

The bench, therefore, directed that she be taken to Salem so as to enable her to pursue her internship/housemanship.  The bench directed the college to admit her and to allow the facility of a room or a shared room in the hostel as per the practice, to enable her to continue her internship/housemanship afresh for the next 11 months.

If necessary, the expenses for pursuing the course and for the hostel shall be borne by the state of Kerala, the bench held.

That Hadiya had to suspend her liberty for nearly eight months for no fault of hers must shame all of us.  That it took the Supreme Court to intervene in the matter to restore her liberty is a sad commentary on the times we live.


Cover image from here.


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