Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, October 19
A girl does not magically assume mental maturity and wisdom at the stroke of the midnight hour on the eve of her 18th birthday, according to the Punjab and Haryana High Court. Her age of majority as prescribed must be construed and interpreted in the context of the law for which it is being considered, the High Court has ruled.
The assertion came as Justice Sanjay Kumar allowed a girl, 10 months short of attaining majority, to stay with her “mother-in-law”. The judgment makes a clear-cut departure from the standard procedure of protecting the “minor” girl’s interest by either entrusting her custody to her parents or sending her to a women’s home.
“Most times, this course of action is not to the liking of the girl, who would have approached this court along with her paramour seeking protection,” Justice Kumar asserted. The Bench stated that the High Court had always exercised “parens patriae” (legal protector) jurisdiction in protection matters when the girl was found to be a minor, but unfortunately, there was no consistency as to how decisions in these cases turned.
Referring to the facts of the case in hand, Justice Kumar observed that the girl had claimed having overheard her parents planning her marriage with a boy of their choice, after which she ran away from home and contacted the boy. Justice Kumar added that the minor was certain and unshaken in her opinion and desire and it would not be right and proper for the court to brush aside her views on the grounds that she was not 18 years old.
Justice Kumar asserted that the age of majority stood frozen at 21 for boys and 18 for girls. Justice Kumar pointed out that it was an acknowledged fact that children these days attained both physiological and psychological maturity long before they completed the age of majority fixed for them by the statute long ago.
Not required to deny factum of marriage
- The law does not require any certification as proof of marriage and registration, yet to be made compulsory, can be affected any time post facto
- In a protection matter, the High Court is not required to deny the factum of marriage or affirm its validity
- A husband will not be liable to be prosecuted for rape under Section 376 of the IPC if his wife is over 15 years of age, but will be liable to be prosecuted under provisions of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act if she is less than 18 years old
- An offence under Section 361 of the IPC, dealing with kidnapping, is not made out if the accused does not compel the minor girl to leave her house
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