New Delhi: The consummation of marriage with a girl below the age of 15 amounts to raping her despite her consent and the man is not protected by the personal law of his religion, the Delhi High Court has ruled.
"Consummation with the wife below the age of 15 years is an offence under Section 375 of the IPC. No exception can be made to the said legal mandate and the same has to be strictly and diligently enforced," said a three-judge bench headed by Acting Chief Justice A K Sikri.
"Consent in such cases is completely immaterial, for consent at such a young age is difficult to conceive and accept. It makes no difference whether the girl is married or not. Personal law applicable to the parties is also immaterial," added the bench, which also had justices Sanjiv Khanna and V K Shali on it.
The bench gave the ruling while answering a host of legal questions, relating to various conflicting provisions on the right age for a girl for her marriage and her consent for having sex as per various statutory provisions, including those under the Indian Penal Code, the Prevention of Child Marriage Act and the Hindu Marriage Act.
The ruling came in response to specific legal question as to "whether an FIR under Section 363 IPC or even 376 IPC can be quashed on the basis of the statement of such a minor that she has contracted the marriage on her own."
The court, however, added that if a girl above the age of 16 has given her consent for consummation of her marriage without any duress, the FIR registered against the man can be quashed in accordance with the law.
"If the girl is more than 16 years, and the girl makes a statement that she went with her consent and the statement and consent is without any force, coercion or undue influence, the statement could be accepted and the court will be within its power to quash the proceedings under Section 363 (kidnap) or 376 (rape) IPC," the court added.
The division bench had sought the answers to the legal posers in 2008, while dealing with various cases related to the marriages of run-away couples, with the girls invariably being minors and couples being either of different castes or religion.