Justice Markandey Katju-
The recent episode of the 2 Sindhi Hindu girls in Pakistan, Raveena and Reena, who were allegedly abducted, converted to Islam, and married to Muslim youth has got a lot of publicity lately.
Pakistan TV channels have said that the girls were not abducted, but voluntarily converted, and did nikah of their own free will, and they have shown the girls saying this.
However, they have missed a central point. Under the Majority Act, which is prevalent both in India and Pakistan, a person above the age of 18 years is called a major (baalig ), while one below 18 is called a minor (nabaalig ). The law presumes that a minor is not mature enough to know what is good or bad for him/her. So he/she cannot do whatever he/she wants, or go wherever he/she likes. A minor must remain in the custody of his/her parents, and do what the parents tell him/her to do, because his/her mind is not developed enough to know what is good or bad for him/her.
The 2 Sindhi girls were reportedly aged 13 and 15. So they were minors, and so should have immediately been sent back into the custody of their parents. If there was a controversy about their age, that could have easily been verified by checking their school records, and also by examination by a doctor. Their mere statement was not enough, for they could have been tutored to make a false statement (in my experience of 20 years as a lawyer and 20 years as a judge, I found that a girl usually gives a statement in favor of the person(s) from whose custody she was brought to court).
Unfortunately, in the case of these 2 Sindhi girls the matter was disposed off on their mere statement that they converted to Islam and married of their own free will, without a proper inquiry of their age. If they were minors, their wish was irrelevant.
In my 20 years career as a Judge (in the Allahabad, Madras and Delhi High Courts and the Supreme Court) I had dozens of cases like this before me. In these cases, the girl had eloped with a person of another religion and got married with him after conversion.
In these cases, the girl’s father would file a habeas corpus petition before me alleging that his daughter had been forcibly abducted, and praying that she be restored to him. In all these cases all I inquired into was the girl’s age. Once I was satisfied (after checking the school records, doctor’s examination, etc.) that she was above 18 I told her she was free to go with whom she
There is another matter I would like to mention here.
In Pakistan there have been several cases of Hindu girls converting to Islam and marrying Muslim youth (whether voluntarily or forcibly), but I have not heard of a single Muslim girl converting to Hinduism and marrying a Hindu boy. Although apostasy ( irtidad ) is not a legal offence in Pakistan, but in practice for a Muslim to convert to another religion will soon thereafter result in being murdered by religious extremists. So if a Muslim girl becomes a Hindu ( or Christian or Sikh ) and marries a boy of another faith, both will soon be killed as murtids (apostates ). I have not heard of a single Muslim girl (or man) who converted and is still alive.
So, in Pakistan it is a one way, not two-way, traffic
[Justice Markandey Katju is former Judge, Supreme Court of India and former Chairman, Press Council of India. The views expressed are his own]