22 Nov 2019 4:38 PM GMT
The Supreme Court has held that a male aged between 18 and 21 years, who contracts into a marriage with a female adult, cannot be punished under Section 9 of Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006.A couple approached the High Court of Punjab and Haryana at Chandigarh seeking police protection, which was granted by it. Later, the father of the girl filed an application before the High Court,...
The Supreme Court has held that a male aged between 18 and 21 years, who contracts into a marriage with a female adult, cannot be punished under Section 9 of Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006.
A couple approached the High Court of Punjab and Haryana at Chandigarh seeking police protection, which was granted by it. Later, the father of the girl filed an application before the High Court, in which he submitted (producing school records) that the boy was only 17 years of age at the time of marriage. The High Court then recalled the protection order and directed registration of an FIR for criminal offence under Section 9 of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act.
In the appeal filed by the boy before the Apex Court, the bench comprising Justice Mohan M. Shanthanagoudar and Justice Aniruddha Bose observed that the High Court could not have recalled its earlier order under Section 482, Cr.P.C, inasmuch as there is no provision for recalling or reviewing an order passed by it in criminal matters. It noted that, if the date of birth as given in the school certificate is accepted, the boy was 17 years old, i.e. below eighteen years of age when he married the girl and therefore Section 9 cannot be applied to him. The Court then examined whether Section 9 would punish a male aged between 18 and 21.
Taking note of the fact that, in this case, the girl was an adult, the bench observed:
The 2006 Act does not make any provision for punishing a female adult who marries a male child. Hence, a literal interpretation of the above provisions of the 2006 Act would mean that if a male aged between the years of eighteen and twenty-one contracts marriage with a female above eighteen years of age, the female adult would not be punished, but it is the male who would be punished for contracting a child marriage, though he himself is a child. 3.3. We are of the view that such an interpretation goes against the object of the Act as borne out in its legislative history.
Referring to the legislative background of the Act, the bench observed:
Nowhere from the discussion above can it be gleaned that the legislators sought to punish a male between the age of eighteen and twenty¬one years who contracts into a marriage with a female adult. Instead, the 2006 Act affords such a male, who is a child for the purposes of the Act, the remedy of getting the marriage annulled by proceeding under Section 3 of the 2006 Act. Hence, male adults between the age of eighteen and twenty-one years of age, who marry female adults cannot be brought under the ambit of Section 9, as this is not the mischief that the provision seeks to remedy.
Taking note of the marginal note of Section 9, the bench held:
"The words "male adult above eighteen years of age, contracts a child marriage" in Section 9 of the 2006 Act should be read as "male adult above eighteen years of age marries a child".
The Court clarified that it is not commenting on the validity of marriages entered into by a man aged between eighteen and twenty-one years and an adult woman. In such cases, the man may have the option to get his marriage annulled under Section 3 of the 2006 Act, subject to the conditions prescribed therein, it added.
While quashing the FIR lodged against the man, the Court also said that the police protection order is not necessary because it is reported that the couple are living happily, and are not facing any threat from their family members.
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