A Division Bench of the Allahabad High Court has issued a Senior Superintendent of Police, Prayagraj to get an investigation conducted in the manner and methodology of functioning of Arya Samaj Kydganj, Prayagraj through its alleged Pradhan Santosh Kumar Shastri while issuing marriage certificates.

In a case before the Division Bench of Justice Ashwani Kumar Mishra and Justice Rajnish Kumar were seized of a matter where the petitioner relied upon a marriage certificate issued by one Santosh Kumar Shastri claiming himself to be Pradhan of Arya Samaj Krishna Nagar, Prayagraj. He claimed to have performed the marriage in his capacity as the Priest and has solemnized the marriage.

"This Court is flooded with the writ petitions in which such certificates are issued by Santosh Kumar Shastri and a day would not pass when some of such certificates issued by person concerned is not made the basis for issuance of a marriage certificate", the Bench noted in its May 30 order.

In its Order, the Bench reproduced an order passed by Justice Ashwani Kumar Mishra in the year 2016 recording that marriage certificates are indiscriminately being issued by Santosh Shastri for consideration and without due verification of the parties. "It is to be borne in mind that such certificates have vital consequences inasmuch as petitioners' marriage has been performed against wishes of the family and in the case of any future conflict except for the certificate issued by the respondent no.6, there is nothing on record to establish the factum of marriage. In none of the petitions, it is stated that petitioners are Arya Samaji and it seems that only marriage certificate is being provided by respondent no.6", the Court had said in its 2016 order while restraining him from issuing marriage certificates.

The Bench observed that the issues raised in the 2016 order have not been addressed so far since the said Writ Petition was dismissed for non-prosecution.

The Bench said that it is troubled by the issuance of marriage certificates by Santosh Kumar Shastri in respect of persons who are not even known to him nor are identified by any responsible person.

"...we are prima facie of the opinion that the purpose of issuing such certificate is merely to facilitate run away boys and girls to lend legitimacy to their claim without determining their identity and without ascertaining their age etc., with the sole purpose of securing protection for them", the Bench said.

The Court observed that young boys and girls enter into their relationships very often due to infatuation or other reasons, which may be for a limited period. "The difficulty we see for these youngsters is that if their relationships break, there is none to support them. The families distance them and apparently there are no other social security mechanism in place for these young girls. The Constitution respects their freedom but the Court, while granting them protection, also has the obligation to secure them from any possible ills, later", it added.

The Court directed that the enquiry in the matter should be conducted through an officer not below the rank of Circle Officer and the report of the enquiry conducted in the matter should be placed on record by way of an affidavit filed by the Senior Superintendent of Police, Prayagraj, by the next date, August, 8.

Incidentally, a two-Judge Bench of the Supreme Court remarked on Friday that Arya Samaj has no authority to issue marriage certificates. That was in a matter arising from Rajasthan where the petitioner accused of offences under the POCSO Act had claimed that he had married the victim and relied upon a marriage certificate issued by the Araya Samaj while seeking bail. The Supreme Court dismissed his plea.

Click here to read/download Order