Lata Singh Vs State of UP and others was a landmark judgment by the Supreme Court which upheld the right of adult woman/man to choose her/his life partner.
Details of the Case
Lata Singh, after her father's death, was living with her brother. She was in love with one Brahma Nanda Gupta who had business in Delhi and other parts. . On 2nd November 2000, she left her brother's house on her own free will. They got married in Arya Samaj Mandir in Lucknow. They had a child out of this wedlock.
Lata’s brothers Ajay, Shashi and Anand made a hue and cry of the incident as the marriage was inter- caste marriage. They abused and beat Lata Singh's husband and his family members. They also filed a police complaint stating that their sister, who is mentally unstable, is kidnapped.
On this complaint the police arrested of BN Gupta, with her one month baby. Another sister and a cousin of BN Gupta were also arrested and sent to jail.
Lata’s brothers threatened to kill Lata Singh and her relatives of her in-laws. They took possession of the shop owned by BN Gupta, and also harvested the crops forcibly from the field belonging to BN Gupta and sold it in the market.
As Lata felt threat to her life, she shifted to one her relatives in Rajasthan, there approached Rajasthan Women's Commission of Jaipur to save her husband and relatives from the harassment meted out to them by her brothers. Later she appealed to National Human Rights Commission. As a result of these steps, Lata and others got bail. The bail was challenged by her brothers. After she contested the Committal Order issued by the Chief Judicial Magistrate in the High Court, she was released. Then she approached the Supreme Court.
Supreme Court considered all the facts from the Counsel of petitioner and that of state government. The following are the highlights in the SC Judgment.
1. Lata Singh was major at all relevant times. As a result, she was free to marry or live with anyone she likes. Under Hindu Marriage Act or under any other law, there was no bar on inter- caste marriage. Therefore, Lata Singh, her husband or her husband's relatives did not commit any offence.
2. As such, the whole criminal case in question was an abuse of the process of the Court as well as administrative machinery. It was distressed to note that instead of taking action against the brothers of the petitioner, the police proceeded against Lata Singh, her husband and relatives.
3. As several such instances were coming to it's knowledge either of harrassment, threats or violence against men and women who marry outside their caste, the Court felt it necessary to express its opinion that nation was passing through crucial transitional period in its history, and the court could not remain silent in the matters of great public concerns.
4. Caste system was a curse on the nation and sooner it is destroyed the better. It was dividing the nation at a time when all have to be united. Inter- caste marriages are in fact of national interest, as it will result in destroying the caste system.
5. However, disturbing news are being reported from several parts of the country and that of young men and women who undergo inter caste marriage, are threatened with violence, and/or killed. These acts of violence/threats/harassment are wholly illegal, and those who commit them must be punished.
6. Supreme Court directed the police, throughout the country, that if any boy or girl who is major undergoes inter caste or inter religious marriage, the couples/their relatives should not be harassed by any one and should not be subjected to threats/violence.
7. Any one, who threatens or harasses or commits acts of violence either him/herself or at his/her instigation, should be taken to task by instituting criminal proceedings by the police. Stern action must be taken against such persons as provided by law.
8. There is no 'honour' in killing people who undergo inter-caste or inter-religious marriage out of their own will. It is nothing but barbaric, feudal minded acts. Such persons deserve harsh punishment.
9. The pending proceedings in Sessions trial and FIR registered at police station against Lata, her husband and her relatives was quashed. The warrant against the accused were also quashed. Police is to ensure protection to Lata Singh, her husband and family without further threats.
10. Criminal proceedings against Lata’s brothers to be continued and they were punished.
This case according to me gives back the hope in the judicial system. It also upholds individual’s choice on marriage. It's direction to the police officials across the country to take stern action against the people involved in or instigating 'honour killing' is to be welcomed.Of course, the change cannot be an instant one; socialization process of majority Indians is based on caste and religion. This will take years and years to bring the change in the mindset. This judgment gives an hope in reduction of honour killings in the country.
Such judgments should be part of text books at an appropriate level so that people get awareness. Police personnel should be well-verse on such judgments.Only through these means we can mould the minds of people in the years to come. The time has come to wake ourselves up and look around for the little change in the society.
These changes should first start from our own houses. Respecting every individual of any caste, religion, gender should be taught at the younger age so that everyone will uphold the humanity.