Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, September 28
When Pandit Sonu Sharma performed an underage girl’s marriage, little did he realise that he was tying knot with trouble. Taking up a protection matter filed by a runaway couple, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has asserted that the priest and the ‘groom’ were liable to prosecution under the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006.
“Since the alleged marriage of the petitioners was performed within the jurisdiction of the SHO, Mansa Devi Complex police station, Sector 4, Panchkula, the registry is directed to communicate this order to the SHO concerned, at the earliest, for taking appropriate action against the accused under the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act,” Justice Arvind Singh Sangwan ruled.
The direction by Justice Sangwan came after the Ludhiana Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM) submitted a report to the High Court after recording the statement of Pandit Sonu Sharma and others concerned. The report stated that the girl, born on July 5, 2003, was less than 18 at the time of marriage and Pandit Sonu Sharma performed the marriage without taking valid documentary proof of her age merely on the basis of duly sworn affidavits of the girl.
The case has its genesis in a petition filed by the couple against the State of Punjab and other respondents. Appearing before Justice Sangwan’s Bench through videoconferencing, the counsel for the petitioners sought directions to the officials respondents to protect their life and liberty on the ground that the marriage was performed against the wishes of the bride’s parents and family. The counsel submitted that the petitioners were apprehending threat to their life and liberty at their instance.
Taking up the matter, Justice Sangwan on the previous date of hearing directed the petitioners and three other respondents to appear before the Ludhiana CJM/Duty Magistrate for recording the statement of the parties. The CJM/DM was also asked to submit a report on the girl’s age.
Justice Sangwan observed it was the girl’s own declaration in the petition that her date of birth was July 5, 2003, in the matriculation certificate and as such her age came out to be 17 years, two months and three days.
The CJM was also directed to record the statement of Pandit Sonu Sharma of Panchkula on the date fixed “as to how he has performed the marriage without taking any proof regarding age of petitioner-girl to be above 18”.
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