The Supreme Court today ordered the NIA to probe a case of conversion and marriage of a Hindu woman to a Muslim man, as the agency claimed it was not an isolated incident but a “pattern” was emerging in Kerala. The Kerala High Court had annulled the marriage, terming it as an instance of ‘love jihad’. The apex court directed the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to probe the incident under the supervision of a retired apex court judge, Justice R V Raveendran. The top court observed that like in the ‘Blue Whale’ — an internet game which allegedly give series of tasks to players with a final challenge requiring him or her to commit suicide, it was now easy to persuade someone to perform a particular task. “This will not be an Special Investigation Team (SIT). The NIA shall carry out the probe under the supervision of retired judge Justice R V Raveendaran,” a bench of Chief Justice J S Khehar and D Y Chandrachud said. The bench said it wanted the probe to be fair and the NIA, being an independent agency outside the state of Kerala, can conduct the probe in an impartial manner and have a different point of view. “Before forming any opinion or arriving at a conclusion, we would like to consider the NIA’s probe report, inputs from the Kerala Police and talk to the woman,” it said.
The bench directed the NIA to submit its final investigation report in the court to enable it to arrive at any conclusion in the matter. Additional Solicitor General Maninder Singh appearing for NIA said prima facie it appears that the woman’s conversion to Islam and her subsequent marriage to a Muslim was not an isolated incident and other such instances have come to the agency’s notice. He claimed that in the other incidents, some players were allegedly found involved in converting young Hindu girls who had some differences with their parents, to Islam. Singh said the agency has so far found that the same people were behind the religious conversion of the women and their subsequent marriage. “Role of one lady is under investigation. Prima facie it has been found that entities are common in these cases. This is the second case. There is a pattern. The girls first get converted and then they refuse to stay with their family members and
“Role of one lady is under investigation. Prima facie it has been found that entities are common in these cases. This is the second case. There is a pattern. The girls first get converted and then they refuse to stay with their family members and subsequently their marriage is done. This matter requires further investigation and the agency will do as per court’s order,” Singh said. Senior advocate V Giri appearing for Kerala said he has no objection to NIA probe, if the apex court so desired. He said that a SIT has already been formed which has been looking into the incident but he has no objection if NIA takes over the probe and Kerala police would cooperate with the agency.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for the husband Shafin Jahan who is the petitioner, said he can submit an affidavit to showcase U-turns made by NIA in several cases. “It will be appropriate if the court calls the woman and talk to her,” he said while objecting to the NIA probe saying the crime branch was already investigating the case and it would be appropriate if it completed the investigation.
To this, the bench said it would certainly like to talk to the woman but not at this stage and it would be appropriate to first go through the inputs from NIA, Kerala Police and other stakeholders. “If we speak to her at this stage and she says that she was forcibly converted and married off, the case will be over. It will be unfair to you. Therefore we would speak to her at the last stage before passing any orders,” the bench said. The bench, initially, mooted the name of former Supreme Court judge Justice K S Radhakrishnan as the supervisor of the NIA probe.
Senior advocate Indira Jaising and Sibal opposed the name and suggested that since it was an inter-faith controversy the apex court must be careful in choosing a retired judge who should not be a resident of Kerala. The bench then suggested the name of Justice R V Raveendaran for supervision of probe, which was agreed upon by the parties concerned.
The issue had reached the apex court as Shafin Jahan had challenged the annulment of his marriage by the High Court which ordered the state police to probe such cases. The top court had said it was entrusting the task to the NIA as a neutral agency to get a “whole picture” and ascertain whether the particular instance was limited to a “small pocket” or was there “something wider” to the issue. Jahan, who had married a Hindu woman in last December, had moved the apex court after the Kerala High Court annulled his marriage, saying that it was an insult to the independence of women in the country. The woman, a Hindu, had converted to Islam and later married Jahan. It was alleged that the woman was recruited by Islamic State’s mission in Syria and Jahan was only a stooge.
Ashokan K M, the father of the woman, had alleged that there was a “well-oiled systematic mechanism” for conversion and Islamic radicalisation.
The high court, while declaring the marriage as “null and void”, had described the case as an instance of ‘love jihad’ and ordered the state police to conduct probe into such cases.