Despite Chhattisgarh HC order in favour, interfaith couple still apart

The 23-year-old had been staying at Sakhi for the past few months because she did not want to live with her parents.

The Chhattisgarh High Court has allowed a Jain woman, whose interfaith marriage has entailed a long legal battle, “to live with the person of her choice and at any place of her choice”. The authorities, however, did not release her from Sakhi One Stop Centre, Raipur, citing a condition in the court order.

Anjali Jain secretly married Ibrahim Siddique in February 2018 at an Arya Samaj Temple. Ibrahim claims that he converted to Hinduism before marriage and took the name Aryan Arya. When the matter came to light after a few months, the couple drew the ire of not just the woman’s family, but also the Jain community and Hindu right-wing organisations.

The 23-year-old had been staying at Sakhi for the past few months because she did not want to live with her parents. On Friday, a division bench comprising Chief Justice P R Ramchandra Menon and Justice Parth Prateem Sahu said she should be set free but directed that she be released in the presence of Raipur SP and high-ranking officials of Sakhi. It said the woman’s father Ashok Kumar Jain and Ibrahim alias Aryan Aryan be informed of the date and timing of her release 24 hours in advance over phone or any other admissible mode.

The authorities decided to release her at 1 pm on Sunday. Ahead of the release, the district administration imposed prohibitory orders within 200 m of the Sakhi centre anticipating trouble from groups opposed to the marriage.

The woman’s father, mother and sister were not available at their residence in Dhamtari and their phones were off. The police pasted a notice at the woman’s home that they tried to contact her father on Saturday as per the court order and that Anjali would be released on Sunday.

On Sunday, Ibrahim and his lawyer Priyanka Shukla waited at the Sakhi centre, but Anjali was not released.

SP Arif Shaikh said the matter is pending in Supreme Court. He said the police are yet to get a certified copy of the order, but they tried to contact the father, and he was neither available at his residence nor could be he informed over the phone. “What if he tells the court tomorrow that the decision (to release Anjali) was taken without his knowledge? We have to make multiple attempts to reach him,’’ said the SP.

Ibrahim’s lawyer alleged that the authorities were interpreting the order as per their convenience. “The order is very clear that she has to be set free but the authorities are deliberately delaying the release because an appeal is likely to come up in the apex court on Monday,’’ she said.

Ibrahim (33), who claims to be an event manager, said the Sakhi centre authorities have now told him that Anjali will be released on Monday. “I spoke to her and she was eager to come with me. She also wanted to talk to the media but they took her inside. We are not together because authorities found excuses. Just because someone switched off phones, you can’t stop your work,’’ he said.

Following a police complaint by Anjali’s family, Ibrahim had been arrested. He was recently released on bail.

“On interaction with the detenue (Anjali), we find that she appears to of stable mind and during interaction, she clearly expressed her wish to live with her husband,’’ the bench said.