The Punjab and Haryana high court has clarified that the Prohibition of Child Marriage Law does not differentiate on the basis of religion.
HC has made these observations while hearing a plea filed by muslim runaway couple, seeking protection to their life from their families. The petitioner girl is 18, and boy little less than 21.
“Petitioner No. 2, Azim Khan, is admittedly below the legally marriageable age in terms of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006.
It is to be noticed that even though as per the Muslim Personal Law a valid marriage can be contracted between the parties upon attaining the age of puberty. However, it is to be further noticed that the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006, does not differentiate on the basis of religion, as regards the commission of any offences punishable under the provisions of that Act,” observed Justice Amol Rattan Singh.
However, the court granted protection to the couple, observing that a male between 18 to 21 years though is a child and his marriage with a female adult will be treated as a child marriage he cannot be subjected to punishment for contracting child marriage.
HC relied upon the Supreme Court judgment in Hardev Singh versus Harpreet Kaur case, in which it was held that if a girl/woman is above marriageable age in terms of that Act (above 18 years), no offence punishable under the provisions of that Act would be made out.
The matter had reached before the HC in the wake of a petition filed by Jaspreet Kaur alias Jaspreet Begum and Azim Khan, residents of Fatehgarh Sahib in Punjab, seeking protection of life and liberty after marrying each other against the wishes of their parents on April 18.
On a specific query from the court, the counsel for the petitioners stated that neither were they in any prohibited relationship to each other, nor married earlier. HCowever, HC was informed that the girl had converted to marry the muslim boy.
HC observed that since protection of life and liberty is a fundamental right of every citizen under Article 21 of the Constitution, this petition is disposed of with a direction to the SSP Fatehgarh Sahib to ensure that the lives and liberty of the petitioners are not put to any harm or threat at the hands of their families. The HC also made it clear that if upon verification, the age of girl is found to be actually below 18, this order shall not prohibit the authorities to initiate proceedings under the provisions of the Prohibition of Child Marriages Act of 2006
Read Order here: