Compulsive endogamy among Knanaya Catholics violates right to marry under Article 21: Kerala Court:
A Kerala court has ruled that "compulsive endogamy" practised by Knanaya Catholics is a violation of the right to marry under Article 21 and Article 25 of the Constitution (freedom to profess, practise, and propagate religion), which might have far-reaching implications (Knanaya Catholic Naveekarana Samithy and ors v. The Metropolitan Archbishop, The Archeparchy of Kottayam). As a result, a civil court in Kottayam barred the Archeparchy of Kottayam from removing its Knanaya members for marrying Catholics from other dioceses. "The alleged practise of endogamy in the second defendant (Archeparchy of Kottayam) is clearly in violation of the right to marriage established in Art. 21 of the Indian Constitution, which can be recognised as both a common law and a basic right. The loss of membership in the second defendant as a result of endogamy is a breach of the right to endogamy protected by Article 25 of the Indian Constitution "Sudheesh Kumar S., Additional Sub Judge,
The Knanaya community in Kerala is made up of Christians who believe they are descended from 72 households descended from Jewish-Christian refugees from Southern Mesopotamia. They are highly endogamous, and it is expected of them not to marry outside of their tribe. The Supreme Court has now determined that the Knanaya Catholic Church is not a different religious group eligible for constitutional protection under Articles 25 and 26. While the community has a common structure and name, it lacks a specific "system of ideas or doctrines that they perceive as conducive to their spiritual well-being, i.e., common faith," according to the Court. The Judge reasoned that Knanaya Catholics, like any other member of the Syro Malabar Church or Catholic Church, believe in Jesus Christ and his gospels as beneficial to their spiritual well-being. The Court went on to say that discrimination based on endogamy could not be considered a religious matter for the Knanaya Catholic community. Endogamy has not been established as a custom, practise, or tradition with legal validity in the Knanaya Catholic community, according to the judge. The Court went on to say that it is obvious that endogamy is not being implemented peacefully in the Kottayam Archeparchy. It was argued that no authority can coerce a non-Knanite to join, and that Knanites have the right to establish their groups according to their culture, practise, and custom.