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Posted at: Oct 16, 2019, 6:36 AM; last updated: Oct 16, 2019, 6:41 AM (IST)

Underage couples who tie knot have right to protection, says HC

Underage couples who tie knot have right to protection, says HC

Saurabh Malik

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 15

A bride who ties the knot with an underage groom will not part ways with their fundamental right to seek protection of life and liberty, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has ruled. The mere fact that the groom is not of marriageable age will not deprive the petitioners of their fundamental right to seek protection as envisaged in the Constitution of India, the Bench has asserted.

Taking up the plea, Justice Arun Monga asserted that the conflict raised in the petition was on enforcement of fundamental rights of the petitioners to seek protection of their “life and liberty” as enshrined under Article 21 of the Constitution of India vis-à-vis conceded violation of Section 5 (iii) of the Hindu Marriage Act. The girl, 18, and the boy, 20, claimed that they had married each other after purportedly being in love. Referring to Section 5, Justice Monga asserted that it left no manner of doubt that an essential condition of the Hindu Marriage Act was that the bridegroom must be above 21 and the bride above 18. But Section 11 of the Act, at the same time, precluded a marriage solemnised in contravention of Sub Section (iii) of Section 5 from the purview of being regarded as void or invalid.

Without going into validity of the marriage, Justice Monga asserted that the petitioners had not solemnised a valid marriage as per Sub Section (iii) of Section 5 of the Hindu Marriage Act. They may be required to satisfy the validity of their marriage before an appropriate forum in the event of same being challenged. The issue in hand, however, was not marriage of the petitioners, but the deprivation of fundamental right to seek protection of life and liberty.

Justice Monga added that the court had no hesitation to hold that the Constitutional fundamental right under Article 21 stood on a much higher pedestal. “Being sacrosanct under the Constitutional scheme, it must be protected, regardless of the solemnisation of an invalid or void marriage or even the absence of any marriage between the parties”.

Justice Monga added that it was the state’s bounden duty as per the Constitutional obligations cast upon it to protect the life and liberty of every citizen. “The mere fact that the petitioner-groom is not of marriageable age in the present case would not deprive the petitioners of their fundamental right as envisaged in the Constitution of India, being citizens of India”.

Before parting with the case, the high court Bench directed the Mohali Senior Superintendent of Police Kuldeep Singh Chahal to verify the contents of the petition, particularly the threat perception, before providing necessary protection qua their life and liberty if deemed fit.

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