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SC ruling on child marriages
Stays legal import of two HC verdicts
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, March 27
In a significant order, the Supreme Court today stayed the legal import of the recent judgements of the Delhi and Andhra Pradesh High Courts upholding “consensual sex and marriages” of minor girls with their lovers after eloping with them.

The unprecedented step was taken by the apex court due to conflicts between various laws on the issue of child marriage after the National Commission for Women (NCW) challenged the high court verdicts on the ground that those had exposed the “mockery” of our legal system.

While issuing notices to the Centre, Delhi and AP Governments, seeking their replies, a Bench of Chief Justice Y.K. Sabharwal, Mr Justice C.K. Thakker and Mr Justice R.V. Raveendran said the judgement passed by the two high courts would not apply to any other similar case on citation by lawyers.

While admitting the NCW petition, the court also requested the Law Commission to extend help to it in adjudicating the matter, involving sharp conflicts between various laws on the issue.

Though admitting that the high courts could not be faulted for upholding the validity of the marriages of girls of 15 and 16 years of age when they made categorical statements before them that they had married on their free will, the Commission said clear guidelines needed to be laid down because the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 did not authorise courts to declare a marriage void unless one of the party filed a suit for it.

While the Delhi High Court in its October 5 judgement had upheld the marriages of 16-year-old and 15-year-old girls valid when their parents had filed criminal writ petitions charging their lovers with kidnapping and rape but the girls had said they had married them on their free will, the Andhra Pradesh High Court in its order of February 1, had held identical views when similar case came before it.

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