Thursday, August 12, 2010

Marriage of minor couple valid, rules Delhi HC

In a rare judgment that may have far-reaching consequences, Delhi High Court on Wednesday came to the rescue of two minors who had got married against their parents' wishes, ruling that their wedding was "valid".
The court ruled that though the marriage flouted one of clauses in section 5 of the Hindu Marriage Act - which lays down the minimum age of marriage as 18 years for the bride and 21 for the groom - this in itself did not make the marriage void. A division bench comprising Justices B D Ahmed and V K Jain said the clause which laid down the minimum age (clause III, section 5), wasn't one of the conditions stipulated in the Hindu Marriage Act that would render a marriage void.

"A Hindu marriage solemnized in contravention of clause III, section 5 of the HMA... does not fall in the category of voidable marriages," the bench ruled. The court said that even under the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, the marriage involving minors had not been declared as invalid. The Act just says that the marriage can be annulled on this ground if a plea is made by the minor partner. "It is clear that where, earlier, a child marriage may not have been voidable under personal law, as in the case of the Hindu Marriage Act, by virtue of the section 3 of the Prohibition of Child marriage Act, it has explicitly been made voidable at the option of the child spouse. But nobody other than a party to the marriage can petition for its annulment," the court said.

It said the legislature while drafting the provisions of the Hindu Marriage Act had consciously left out marriages in contravention of the age stipulation from the category of void or invalid marriages. The petitioner, Jitendra Kumar Sharma, who is not yet 18 years old, had sought the court's intervention after a criminal case was registered against him on the complaint of his 16-year-old wife's family. They alleged that the boy had abducted her.

The court ordered quashing of the FIR, which had booked the boy for kidnapping and rape, stating that "Poonam (the bride) has clearly stated that she left her home on her own and of her own free will...continuing proceedings pursuant to them would be an exercise in futility and would not be in the interest of justice". The court added that even the offence under Section 9 of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, which provides for the punishment of a male adult above 18 years of age, was not made out as " Jitender is less than 18 years of age". "We direct that Poonam is no longer required to be kept at Nirmal Chhaya. She is free to go with her husband and reside with him in his home. Jitender's father, brother and sister have assured this court that they will provide full support to the young couple," said the court.


Post a Comment