In a recent order, the Punjab and Haryana High Court remarked that a court hearing a Protection Petition filed by runaway couples need not preach on morality or human behavior.
A bench of Justice Rajiv Narayan Raina made it clear that in such cases, the court should not present its personal views regarding morality, and must ensure that the couple's rights under Article 21 are protected.
"It is not for this Court in a protection petition to engage itself in social mores, norms and human behaviour or introduce personal ideas on morality."
The court was hearing a petition filed by a runaway couple apprehending arrest by the Police and fearing bodily harm and injury by other private respondents. They had approached the High Court seeking directions to the local police of Chandher to ensure that their lives and liberty is protected.
The Petitioners, presenting their Aadhaar cards in the court, claimed that they were both adults.
However, the Government counsel contended that the girl was a minor and thus, an FIR had been filed in this regard.
To this, the court stated that "although there is a dispute regarding the age of the girl, yet the prayer is based on Article 21 of the Constitution of India, and therefore, deserves the immediate attention of the Police Department to ensure that the petitioners are not unduly harassed by anyone including the private respondents."
Stating that the courts should refrain from presenting its personal views in such cases the court went on to state even if the girl was presumed to be a minor, her marriage is permitted under the Hindu Personal laws.
"Even if it is assumed that the girl is minor, it must be remembered that in the Hindu Marriage Act, 1956 marriage of a minor girl is not void but voidable on reaching the marriageable age," the bench iterated.
Accordingly, the court directed the Senior Superintendent of Police, Amritsar to personally look into the matter and offer help, which is consistent with the Petitioner's safety.
"For this, the petitioners would contact the office of the Senior Superintendent of Police, Amritsar give their contact numbers, who will take up the matter immediately and take such action as is warranted by law so that no harm comes to the petitioners and they be not arrested in the FIR registered in this regard," the bench directed in view of the guiding principles issued by the Supreme Court in Lata Singh v. State of UP & Anr., 2006 (3) RCR (Criminal) 870.
In the said case, a bench comprising of Justices Ashok Bhan and Markandey Katju had held,
"This is a free and democratic country, and once a person becomes a major he or she can marry whosoever he/she likes. If the parents of the boy or girl do not approve of such inter-caste or inter-religious marriage the maximum they can do is that they can cut off social relations with the son or the daughter, but they cannot give threats or commit or instigate acts of violence and cannot harass the person who undergoes such inter-caste or inter- religious marriage. We, therefore, direct that the administration/police authorities throughout the country will see to it that if any boy or girl who is a major undergoes inter-caste or inter-religious marriage with a woman or man who is a major, the couple are not harassed by any one nor subjected to threats or acts of violence, and anyone who gives such threats or harasses or commits acts of violence either himself or at his instigation, is taken to task by instituting criminal proceedings by the police against such persons and further stern action is taken against such persons as provided by law."
Though, in the present case majority of the girl's age is a disputed fact, however the court's observation herein shows that a couple does not lose their rights to protect life and liberty only for the reason of marrying at minor age.
Case Title: Sumanpreet Kaur & Anr. v. State of Punjab & Ors.
Case No.: CRWP No. 3048/2020
Quorum: Justice Rajiv Narayan Raina
Appearance: Advocate Onkar Singh (for Petitioners); DAG Monika Jalota (for State)
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