A video of a hearing before the Madhya Pradesh High Court has gone viral on social media. In the video which contains some parts of the hearing, the Judges are seen asking a Hindu man (Petitioner) who has married a Muslim woman, to convert to Islam.

The Video

The smaller version of the video that is being circulated on social can be viewed here and the longer version here. The author is not vouching for the authenticity or the completeness of the videos.

The video appears to be that of a hearing before the Division Bench of the High Court (Gwalior Bench) comprising Justice Rohit Arya and Justice Milind Ramesh Phadke. Justice Arya is seen asking the Petitioner's Counsel "Who converted the girl into a Muslim?" to which the Counsel replies that the woman converted through the Arya Samaj Mandir from Islam to Hinduism.

Justice Rohit Arya tells the Petitioner's (husband's) Counsel "It's better that you become a Muslim. Go to a Kazhi". The Counsel replies that the woman has already converted to Hinduism and that she is a major. "Lordships! What will he do becoming a Muslim?", the Counsel asks.

"Converting someone from Islam to Hinduism is not a small (funny) thing. If we accept this what will happen to the society?", Justice Rohit Arya asks the Counsel.

The Case

The husband, Rahul @ Golu, moved the High Court filing a Habeas Corpus petition alleging that his wife, Hina Khan, had been illegally confined by the police in a Nari Sudhar Grah and thus prayed for her release.

The Petitioner claimed that the couple was in a relationship and they left their homes to get married. For this, the Muslim girl converted to Hinduism. It was also stated that since the girl ran away from her home, her parents got an FIR registered.

In August 2021, the girl gave her statement before the police and thereafter, before the Judicial Magistrate expressing her willingness to reside with her husband and his family, but, despite this, she was sent to Nari Sudhar Grah even though she was not a minor on the date of their marriage.

In such circumstances, the husband moved the High Court alleging that his wife was illegally confined by the police and prayed for the production of his wife before the High Court.

How the cases proceeded

Rahul filed the writ petition on November 26, 2021. On December 2, 2021 a Division Bench headed by Chief Justice Ravi Malimath issued notice in the petition, returnable in a week. From the next hearing onwards, the petition is being listed before Benches headed by Justice Rohit Arya.

After the hearing on January 10, 2022, the Petitioner was directed to implead Arya Samaj Vivah Mandir Trust, Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh as a Respondent.

On the next hearing i.e. on January 18, 2022, the Petitioner's counsel told the Court that he has no instruction in the matter and the Trust had not been impleaded. The Additional Advocate General M.P.S. Raghuvanshi submitted before the Court that "in this case the so-called Arya Samaj Vivah Mandir Trust, has converted the religion of a girl of Muslim Community named Hina Khan. He submits that such kind of activities are not carried out in temples. It is a serious matter. A perusal of marriage certificate reflects the factum of conversion from Muslim into Hindu Community with further stipulation that she shall change her name from Hina Khan to Hina. The petitioner may not be allowed to withdraw this petition, instead this Court may invoke suo motu jurisdiction and issue notice to the so-called Arya Samaj Vivah Mandir Trust".

The Court then suo motu issued notice to the Mandir Trust registered in a different state i.e. Uttar Pradesh and directed the Priest/Manager of Mandir Trust to appear on the next date in person or through an Advocate.

Thereafter, the Mandir Trust is formally impleaded and an Advocate appeared for the Mandir Trust and obtained adjournment for filing vakalatnama.

On April 13, 2022, after asking the lawyer for the Mandir Trust about legal authority to convert someone to Hinduism, the Court directed Niranjan Vashishtha, the General Secretary of the Mandir Trust from UP to appear before the Court on the next hearing.

On May 14, 2022, the Advocate for the Petitioner sought permission to withdraw his petition. However, the Advocate for MP Government opposed the plea and the Court refused to permit withdrawal of the petition.

The video of the hearing appears to be that of June 16, 2022. In its order of that date (attached below), the Court framed 12 issues that "arise to address" in the matter, about the Mandir Trust, the religious conversion it did, and whether police enquiry is required in the matter. The Court appointed Advocate Faizal Ali Shah as Amicus Curiae to assist on the said issues "with relevant literature and recitals of holy Kuran".

The Additional Advocate General Raghuvanshi pointed out a judgment (read report) of the Allahabad High Court about an Arya Samaj institution in Prayagraj issuing marriage certificates.

Raghuvanshi told the Court, "situation is also alarming in Madhya Pradesh as hundreds of indiscriminate marriage certificates are being issued to young boys and girls by such marriage shops on payment of huge amount without verification of their age and identities. No record is maintained. Therefore, this Court may also consider to appoint a high level police inquiry into the affairs of the instant Arya Samaj Vivah Mandir Trust/respondent No.6".

As per the Order, the Court adjourned the case at the request of the Counsel for the Mandir Trust.

The case was then listed on July 28, 2022, when the Additional Advocate General Raghuvanshi and the Amicus Curiae sought time to file submissions and documents. The Court adjourned the case to September 1, 2022.

Plight of the Couple

The plight of the couple is clear from the video where the lawyer for the husband is seen pleading for considering his grievance instead of issues relating to the Arya Samaj Mandir. "The girl is inside (Nari Sudhar Grah) for a year, without any reason", the lawyer says. He pleads to consider her case, pointing out that she is a major. That is when the Judge asks the husband to convert to Islam.

The Habeas Corpus writ petition filed in November, 2021 now stands adjourned to Sepetmber, 2022.

Earlier this week, in Azam Khan's case, the Supreme Court had criticized the High Court for going into ancillary issues while considering a bail application. "This is yet another matter where we find that the High Court has referred to matters which are unrelated to the consideration of prayer for bail in reference to the crime registered against the concerned accused."

The case of the couple is similar. The Madhya Pradesh High Court is pursuing an ancillary issue while keeping the Habeas Corpus petition pending. The Petitioner will not be able to pursue any other remedy since he was not permitted to withdraw his petition.

The law is clear that a person who has attained majority is free to choose the religion and life partner of his or her choice. Those basic rights are being denied to the couple in this case.

[The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. Verdictum does not assume any responsibility or liability for the contents of the article.]

Click here to read/download 16 June Order