Safe houses be made available in Pb, Hry for couples marrying against family's wishes, suggests HC

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Chandigarh, Mar 11 (PTI) The Punjab and Haryana High Court has suggested that safe houses should be made available in the two states as well as in Chandigarh, their common capital, to protect life and liberty of couples who married against the wishes of their families.

'Number of such petitions are being filed by the couples who performed marriage against the wishes of their parents and relatives. This court is also being approached by the couples stating to be in a live-in relationship,' Justice Avneesh Jhingan pointed out in an interim order on Wednesday.

The court was hearing a writ petition that had sought issuance of directions to the Punjab government to protect life and liberty of the petitioners, who married on March 4 against the wishes of their parents.

Non-acceptability of inter-caste marriage is a social problem which needs to be dealt at multifarious levels, the judge said, adding that inter-caste is not the only reason for non-acceptability of marriage, there are numerous other socio-economic reasons acting as hurdles for the young couples for selecting life partner of their choice.

'Over the period it is experienced that number of such petitions are filed as a matter of routine. It is evident from most of these petitions that the day the marriage is performed, a representation is made and in some cases even the writ petition is drafted/filed on the same very day. In most of the cases, there is even no proof of submission of the representation,' he said.

'The petitions of such nature are either disposed of, without commenting on the validity of the marriage and directing the official respondents to consider the representation or notice of motion is issued to the official respondents. In latter case by the next date, the police officials record the statements of the petitioners. By and large, the statement is that there is no threat perception existing,' Jhingan said.

The judge said the net result is that the petitions involving serious and eminent threat get mixed up in number of petitions filed in routine and another aspect of the matter is, the couples who are apprehending threat perception have to travel all the way to this court for completing the formalities for filing the writ petition and this further exposes them to threat.

Taking into consideration the fact that in these cases time is the essence, the court said one of the way to tackle the problem is that safe houses should be made available in each district of both the states, as well as in Chandigarh.

A website or an on-line module should be provided for such couples to raise their grievances without being physically present, it said, adding that providing a 24x7 help desk at tehsil level for filing of such representations by aggrieved persons or through someone can be of great help.

'An existing cell in the Police department can be deputed or a new cell can be created which can deal with the representation in a time-bound manner, in any case not beyond 48 hours. It can also be ensured by authorities that in case a request is made by the couples during the period of consideration of the representation, they be provided shelter in safe house,' the high court said.

It also said that Legal Services Authorities with the passage of time have been able to reach at the grassroots level and they can set up a 24x7 help desk for such couples with telephone service and internet connectivity at the local level.

'The entire endeavour of the exercise is that some sort of workable mechanism is put in motion to ensure the protection of life and personal liberty as guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. Further that only in exceptional cases, the couples have to take trouble to approach this Court alleging infringement of the rights,' the court said. PTI SUN VSD SNE SNE