Sunday, January 7, 2018

Adult girl has a right to live life of her choice: SC

Striking hard at the societal tendency to impose restrictions on girls with regard to their choice of dress, profession and life partner, the Supreme Court on Friday declared that an adult woman enjoyed an unfettered right to lead a life of her choice.
"It needs no special emphasis to state that attaining the age of majority in an individual's life has its own significance. S/he is entitled to make her/his choice. The courts cannot, as long as the choice remains, assume the role of parens patriae (legal protector)," said a bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud.

"The daughter is entitled to enjoy her freedom as the law permits and the court should not assume the role of super guardian being moved by any kind of sentiment of the mother or egotism of the father. We say so without any reservation," it said.

Reiteration of constitutional respect to a girl's choice in the face of parental and societal pressures assume significance as the apex court had recently followed the same principle while permitting Hadiya to pursue her studies, despite the love-jihad allegations levelled by her father and the Kerala HC decision to annul her marriage to a Muslim man after conversion.
Asserting that every major woman has absolute right to make choices in life, the Supreme Court on Friday held that "courts can't play super-guardians".

A bench, headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, emphasised that an adult woman has an unqualified right to make free choices in her life and there cannot be any interdiction.

"She is entitled to enjoy her freedom as a major, she is entitled to go wherever she wants, do whatever she likes..," maintained the CJI.

Justice Misra observed that an adult woman has a right of her will and that she cannot be stopped from pursuing her goals.

Incidentally, this is the same bench which has recently issued direction against parental custody of a major woman in Kerala, in what has come to be known as 'Love Jihad' case.

The court had then said the 25-year-old woman, Hadiya, who has converted to Islam and married a Muslim man, will be admitted to the medical college to complete her studies.

In the present case, the remarks came as the court dismissed a plea by a woman, who pressed for custody of her major daughter.

The petition cited an order by a family court, giving custody of the girl to the mother.

But after the girl turned major in September last year, she expressed her willingness to go to Kuwait and stay with her father. This prompted the mother to file a contempt petition against the father, and seek the custody of the daughter.

The court, however, refused to pass any order of custody, pointing out once the girl has become major, she will have absolute right to decide who she wants to live with.

"How can you ask us to make her a victim of contempt? How can we atop her? As a major, she can go to Kuwait and live with her father if she wants," concluded the bench.​

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