Pintubhai Raychandji Mali had moved the SC seeking to know the whereabouts of his wife and alleged that her parents were attempting to get her married to another person. He had challenged the Gujarat HC order which had dismissed his plea while accusing him of immoral conduct of contracting another marriage during the subsistence of first marriage.
The petitioner’s counsel D N Ray had laboured hard on August 25 to persuade a reluctant SC to at least find out the views of the woman and her well-being. The bench had ordered the judge of the family court at Banaskantha to interview the woman.
The family court judge in his report submitted the details of his interview with the woman, who said that she was being held in captivity by her parents against her wishes and expressed fears to her life as well as that of Pintubhai from her parents and paternal uncle.
On learning this, a bench of Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and Justices PS Narasimha and Manoj Misra ordered the superintendent of police, Banaskantha, to “take immediate steps to release the woman from the custody of parents and escort her to the petitioner husband, as per wish, to reside with him if so wishes”.
Taking note of the fears expressed by the woman to her life from her relatives for marrying Mali, the bench also ordered the SP to provide adequate security to the woman and her husband when they reside together.
The CJI-led bench issued notices to the woman’s parents and relatives asking them to show cause why action should not be taken against them for detaining her against her wishes. It also stayed the HC order that had annulled her marriage with the petitioner.
The HC had dismissed Mali’s habeas corpus petition, criticised him for getting married even during the substance of his first marriage and imposed a cost of Rs 10,000 saying allowing his habeas corpus plea would put premium on immorality.
Challenging the validity of the HC’s decision, Ray told the SC that the question presented before the HC was the safety and whereabouts of the woman in question and there was no occasion for the HC to get into a moral evaluation territory to deny him relief.