SC`s directive to Centre on minor`s marriages

The apex court said if the government did not file its response, it would have to pass necessary orders for rectifying the anomalies.

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Centre to file a comprehensive affidavit on various anomalies in different laws for declaring a girl `minor` which hinder efforts to curb the menace of child marriage.

The court gave the direction to the government saying
the issue has serious repercussions throughout the country.

"If you allow such marriages, the whole purpose of banning child marriages is defeated. It is a serious matter, it will have serious repercussions throughout the country," a bench of justices Dalveer Bhandari and Deepak Verma said.

The apex court said if the government did not file its response, it would have to pass necessary orders for rectifying the anomalies.

The bench made the remarks while granting 4 weeks to Additional Solicitor General Indira Jaising to file the affidavit.

Earlier during the brief arguments, Jaising said the anomalies in different laws were being examined along with the recommendations of the Law Commission.

The apex court passed the direction on a petition by National Commission for Women complaining about various anomalies in different laws. The petition said the anomalies were defeating the very purpose of banning child marriages under the Child Marriage Restraint Act.

The Acts, whose implementation have suffered, include Child Marriage (Restraint) Act, 1929, Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 and Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000.

The provisions of these Acts, Indian Penal Code and Sharia Law have several anomalies relating to prevention of child marriage, which in recent times was reflected in the orders of the apex court and High Courts, the petition had said.

Citing an example of anomalies, the petition had said while the Child Marriage Act prevents marriage of girls and boys below 18 year and 21 years, sections 5 and 11 of the Hindu Marriage Act did not authorise the court to declare the marriage void on the ground that either of the party was under-age.

Juvenile Justice Act defines a child as a person below 18 years but IPC has no such definition and the age of consent for sexual intercourse has been laid down as 16 years.

In provisions dealing with rape, the statute says it would not constitute rape if a man has sexual intercourse with a person who is his wife above 15 years.

As per Sharia law, marriage above 15 years is valid. During the earlier hearing, advocate Aparna Bhat said the new legislation The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006, which got the President`s assent in Janaury 2007, did not completely address the concern over child marriage.

It was contended that the variance in age in different laws to define a `minor` or a `child` was coming in the way of dispensation of justice, particularly in cases relating to girls below 18 years marrying after eloping with adult males.

It was pointed out that the new Act has not done enough to wipe out the provision in Indian Penal Code which allows a man to have intercourse with a minor wife.

A similar concern was raised by the Delhi High Court and Andhra Pradesh High Court which expressed their helplessness in declaring as illegal the marriage of minor girls.

The court wanted to know from the Centre how it was going to address the concerns and shortcomings pointed out in the recently-enacted law aimed at preventing child marriage.