27 May 2023 10:50 AM GMT
In a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) plea filed challenging the permissibility of marriage of Girls below 18 Years of age under Muslim Law, the Uttarakhand High Court last week directed to implead and issue notice to the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB). The bench of Chief Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Alok Kumar Verma issued the notice asking the board to respond within...
In a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) plea filed challenging the permissibility of marriage of Girls below 18 Years of age under Muslim Law, the Uttarakhand High Court last week directed to implead and issue notice to the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB).
The bench of Chief Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Alok Kumar Verma issued the notice asking the board to respond within 4 weeks on the PIL plea moved by the Youth Bar Association of India questioning the permissible age of marriage of girls under Muslim Law.
About the plea before the Uttarakhand High Court
The PIL plea has sought directions to the Governments to formulate a Standard Operating Procedure for ensuring that girls below 18 years of age may not be permitted to marry, irrespective of their religion, customs, and local or personal laws in the larger public interest.
The PIL plea specifically refers to the practice permissible under Muslim Law, wherein Muslim girls are allowed to marry upon attaining the age of 15 years.
Further, the plea states that when a Muslim girl is permitted to enter into a valid marriage, while she is a child herself, the same violates her basic right to live with dignity, education, health, and protection which are guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution of India.
Calling it detrimental in various aspects, the Plea avers thus:
"Child marriage violates their rights and places them at high risk of violence, exploitation, and abuse. Child marriage ends childhood. It negatively influences the rights to education, health and protection which is guaranteed by the constitution of India to every citizen. These consequences impact not just the girl directly, but also her family and community...When a girl between the age of 15 to 18 years solemnizes the marriage, it does not mean that she is no longer a child or that she is mentally or physically capable of engaging in sexual activity and conjugal relations."
The Plea further questions whether by way of permitting a Muslim girl to marry before attaining the age of 18 years, would result in violation of laws like "The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006" and "The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012" and same would also be against constitutional morality.
The plea also states that the legal age of marriage in the case of a girl is 18 years, however, the plea adds, in a catena of decisions our courts had presumed that the age of a Muslim girl to enter into a valid marriage is 15 years.
In this regard, the plea referred to the case of Gulam Deen and another versus State of Punjab and others, wherein the Punjab & Haryana High Court had granted protection to a couple who got married against the will of their families, where the Muslim girl was 16 years of age.
"Because the Muslim Personal Law allows a girl to get married at 15 years of age with her consent. The main question that arises here is "whether the consent is valid or not? As being a 15-year-old child, she is not mature enough to understand the after effects of marriage. Marriage comes with a lot of responsibilities which a child can never understand. Girls are treated as a baggage in our society and it is the harsh reality. The parents think that getting a girl married is the biggest responsibility on them. For the age of the girl is irrelevant they can easily influence their daughter to get married," the plea adds.
Lastly, stressing that it is the duty of the Government to take some effective steps immediately to deal with the issue of Child marriage, the plea prays that the process of making "The Prohibition of Child Marriage (Amendment) Bill, 2021" into an act should be expedited and the act should come into force as soon as possible.
In related news, the Supreme Court, earlier this year, stated that the judgment of the Punjab and Haryana High Court in the case Javed v. State of Haryana and Others, which held that a Muslim girl aged 15 years can enter into a legal and valid marriage as per personal law, should not be relied upon as a precedent in any other case.
Advocate Sanpreet S. Ajmani appeared for the petitioner association. Advocate Shailendra Chauhan appeared for the state.
Case title - Youth Bar Association of India v. Union of India and Others