Inter-faith couples face harassment, threats and violence: Madhya Pradesh High Court

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A view of the Madhya Pradesh High Court. File photo

A view of the Madhya Pradesh High Court. File photo

Holding that “the societal opposition to interreligion marriage often makes it difficult for couples to exercise their legal rights”, the Indore Bench of the Madhya Pradesh High Court on April 18 quashed a three-year-old case of cheating against a married couple from Ujjain and the manager of a temple where their marriage was performed. 

The matter pertains to the inter-faith wedding of a Christian man and a Hindu woman in Ujjain’s Neelkantheshwar temple in May 2019, and the subsequent registration of a First Information Report (FIR) under Section 420 (cheating) of the Indian Penal Code in 2020 on the basis of a complaint filed by the woman’s father. While Ramesh Maharaj, manager of the Neel Kantheshwar Mahadev Bhakth Mandal Samiti, was named as the accused initially, the name of the husband and wife were added later at the charge-sheet stage. 

Emphasising on the harassment faced by such couples because of opposition from the families of the spouse(s), Justice Vivek Rusia said that such opposition often led to “harassment, threats, and violence against the couple”.

“In conclusion, inter-religion marriage in India is legally permissible, but it is not without its challenges. The legal framework governing inter-religion marriage is complex and requires the couples to navigate several legal hurdles,” said the order. 

On the case, the court said that the charges were quashed because cheating was not made out in the case, and that it lacked any fraudulent or dishonest inducement, which is an an essential ingredient of the offence under Section 415 of the IPC that defines cheating.

“Undisputedly, applicant No.1 follows the Christian religion and the applicant No.2 belongs to the Hindu religion but they both were majors and there is no bar under any law that they cannot perform the marriage or even if they have performed the marriage they have not violated any penal provisions of IPC,” the order said. 

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