Case Study: Laxmibai Chandaragi B v. State of Karnataka and others

By Mohammad Adil Ansari 9 Minutes Read

“Right to choose a life-partner is a fundamental right under Article 21

Writ Petition (Criminal) No. 359/2020

Author: Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul

Bench: Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Justice Hrishikesh Roy

Facts:

Ms. Laxmibai Chandaragi (hereinafter referred as the ‘Woman’) went missing on 14 October 2020. An FIR was filed on behalf of her parents (namely Mr. Basappa Chandaragi) that she was missing. The Investigating Officer (IO) recorded the statements of parents and relatives. Upon retrieving the call records of the Woman’s phone, it came to knowledge that she was in constant contact with Mr. Santosh Singh Yadav (hereinafter referred as the ‘Man’). The Woman had without informing her parents travelled by flight from Hubli to Delhi and got married to the Man. The next day, on 15th October 2020, she sent her marriage certificate to her parents through Whatsapp and revealed them the factum of her marriage to the Man.

The Investigating Officer (IO) later travelled from Karnataka to Gaziabad, Uttar Pradesh and visited the home of the Man. The parents of the Man informed the IO that they were unaware of the whereabouts of the couple. On establishing contact with the Woman, the Investigating Officer was informed by the Woman that she had married the Man and is currently residing with him. The Investigating Officer, instead of recording her statement insisted that she must travel back to her hometown in Karnataka and appear in the Murgod Police Station to record her statement so that the case can be closed. The Woman refused to comply citing threat to her life from her parents if she came back, in a letter addressed to the IO. The IO however did not heed to her statement and her reservations of threat to her life, and refused to close the case. According to the written transcript of the conversation between the Woman and the IO which was submitted to the court, it was revealed that the IO threatened the Woman and the Man of registering false case against the Man for kidnapping and the Woman for theft in her house, to coerce her to return to her hometown.

Thus, the Man and Woman approached the Allahabad High Court on 19 October, 2020 for security and quashing of the ‘Missing Person’ FIR. But the matter was not taken up, even after a month even though it was requested to be listed for urgent hearing. Thus, the couple petitioned in the Supreme Court for redressal.

Judgement:

The Bench ordered that the FIR filed by the parents be quashed with the “hope that the parents of petitioner No. 1 will have better sense to accept the marriage and re-establish social interaction not only with Petitioner No. 1 (the Woman) but even Petitioner No. 2(the Man).” The bench hoped that such exercise of alienating one’s child and their spouse on grounds of caste and community are not desirable.

Secondly, it directed the Counselling of the IO. It also directed the police authorities to device a training programme and lay down guidelines to deal with such socially sensitive cases within next 8 weeks.

Key Law Positions established in the case

  1. Can the Investigating Officer compel someone to travel to specifically designated Police station to record statement?

    No.

    The marriage certificate given by the Woman to the IO and her conversation to him wherein she stated that she is not missing, but is living with her husband and expressed apprehension for her live in returning to her hometown to record her statement, clearly establishes the truth of the matter. The Police officer can record the statement at the place where the person feels comfortable and secured, and cannot dictate coercion that their statement will only be recorded when accompanied to the designated police station. The court opined “If the IO could have visited the residence of Petitioner No.2, he could very well have recorded the statement of Petitioner No.1 at the place where the petitioners were residing rather than insisting and calling upon the petitioners to come to the local police station at Karnataka.”
  • Can the Police Officer threaten someone with pursuing false charges against them in case such persons fail to comply to the Police Officer’s dictates?

    No.

    The Bench said “We strongly deprecate the conduct of the IO in adopting these tactics and the officer must be sent for counselling as to how to manage such cases.”
  • Do the parents have a say their child’s “right to choose a life-partner” who has attained the legal age for contracting marriage?

    No.

    The Bench opined, “We are fortified in our view by earlier judicial pronouncements of this Court clearly elucidating that the consent of the family or the community or the clan is not necessary once the two adult individuals agree to enter into a wedlock and that their consent has to be piously given primacy.”
  • Can the society exert any influence over the matrimonial choices of any person?

    No.

    The Bench opined in strong words that matrimonial affairs of any person are within the ambit of ‘Right to Privacy’ which is a now a fundamental right under Article 21 after the declaration made by the Supreme Court in this regard in the case of K.S Puttuswamy v. Union of India. Right to choose life-partner is the most intimate of rights forming ‘personal liberty’ guaranteed under Article 21.

    The Bench said, “It is in that context it was further observed that the choice of an individual is an inextricable part of dignity, for dignity cannot be thought of where there is erosion of choice. Such a right or choice is not expected to succumb to the concept of “class honour” or “group thinking”.
    In Shafin Jahan v. Asokan K M & Ors., this Court noticed that the society was emerging through a crucial transformational period. Intimacies of marriage lie within a core zone of privacy, which is inviolable and even matters of faith would have the least effect on them. This right to marry a person of choice was held to be integral part of Article 21 of the Constitution of India.”

The Bench interestingly, quoted Dr. B. R Ambedkar from his seminal word “Annihilation of Caste” to elucidate its perspective on ‘right to choose life-partner’:
“I am convinced that the real remedy is inter-marriage. Fusion of blood can alone create the feeling of being kith and kin, and unless this feeling of kinship, of being kindred, becomes paramount, the separatist feeling-the feeling of being aliens-created by Caste will not vanish. Where society is already well-knit by other ties, marriage is an ordinary incident of life. But where society is cut asunder, marriage as a binding force becomes a matter of urgent necessity. The real remedy for breaking caste is inter-marriage. Nothing else will serve as the solvent of caste.”

Mohammad Adil Ansari

Founding Member & Editor in Chief @LegalWires.

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