A DIVISION bench of the Gujarat High Court has come to the rescue of an interfaith couple from Banaskantha who had married allegedly against the wishes of the woman’s father and were sent to police custody for more than a week.
The court Tuesday ordered they be immediately produced before the HC bench and released from police custody.
The division bench, led by Justice Sonia Gokani, recorded the public prosecutor’s assurance that the couple, who now want to live in Surat, shall be granted police protection “initially for a period of four weeks” by the Surat city police commissioner, whereafter the police commissioner shall decide whether the same requires to be continued or not.
The couple had got married on December 30 at a temple in Rajasthan’s Abu Road and subsequently travelled to Kerala for their honeymoon. In the first week of January, the Gujarat Police travelled to Kerala and brought them back to Palanpur. The two were separated and sent to different police stations
— Palanpur East and Palanpur West. They were formally arrested on January 15 after an FIR was FIR on the basis of a complaint submitted by the woman’s father at Palanpur East police station.
The woman is employed as a section officer on contract with the taluka panchayat office in Palanpur. In his complaint, her father alleged that she stole Rs 82,000 from the family’s residence before running away, getting married fraudulently and obtaining a fake marriage certificate.
On January 18, a habeas corpus petition was moved by the brother of the 30-year-old man, who is a road transport officer in RTO Surat, stating that the latter was illegally detained, arrested and remanded to police custody, following his recent marriage to his 29-year-old childhood friend from another community.
Hearing the petition Tuesday, the division bench quashed and set aside the four-day remand order, dated January 18 to 22. The court directed the Range IG of the jurisdiction concerned “to inquire into the matter, more particularly, considering the conduct of respondent Nos. 5 and 6 (police inspectors of Palanpur East and West police stations), in whose custody, the couple has been detained for all these days, and report to the DIG”.
The court expressed its dissatisfaction with the overreach where the police exercised “undue fervour”, with the officials travelling to Kerala to take a consensually married couple into custody.
The order further notes in its direction to the Range IG: “While conducting such inquiry, the Range IG concerned shall bear in mind that this is the case where undue fervour is shown on account of this being an inter-religion marriage, so also the golden words of the Supreme Court in such matters…”
According to lawyer NK Majumdar, representing the petitioner, the father of the woman was opposed to the marriage. The FIR also names the registrar as an accused, he said.
“Gujarat Police went by flight to Kerala to take the couple into their custody and then travelled back by road to Palanpur where the husband-wife were kept at two separate police stations. Both were named as accused in the FIR. The woman was pressured to not continue with the relationship but she remained adamant. A contention was raised by the petitioner that how could his brother be taken into custody even before the FIR was registered. As per the prosecution’s case, they were taken into custody in Kerala on January 12 and brought to Palanpur and arrested on January 15. But as per the petitioner, they were brought to Palanpur on January 12 and continued to be in illegal detention until January 15, when the FIR came to be registered,” Majumdar said.
On January 4, the woman had also written to the police authorities that she was married and had left home of her own volition. “Hearing the habeas corpus petition, the court directed that the two be produced (before it). The bench spoke to both of them in confidentiality, first separately to each of the two parties, and then together,” Majmudar said.