Madurai: The Madras High court bench here on Thursday ruled that Child Marriage Prevention Act was secular in nature and Muslims could not rely on their personal law to claim the right to give minor girls in marriage even at the age of 15 presuming that the girl had attained puberty.
Justice C.T.Selvam, dismissing an appeal against an order passed by the Perambalur Judicial Magistrate restraining the marriage of one Shahila Baanu, who was just 17 years old, said the objective of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act,2006 was to enhance the health of the children and woman in particular.
The Magistrate had confirmed the order passed by the District Child welfare officer preventing the family of Abdul Khader from solemnising the marriage of their daughter on November 23, 2012 when the girl was just 17 years old.
The judge said Prevention of Child Marriage Act "crossed all barriers of personal law irrespective of personal law. The marriage of a girl is prohibited until the age of 18."
With no government advocate appearing for the case, the judge took the help of Abudkumar Rajarathinam by appointing him as Amicus Curiae.
The judge rejected the contention that Child Marriage Prohibtion law was general in nature and not applicable to Muslims. Besides, in India, the uniform civil code had not been enacted, it was argued.
The judge also rejected the contention thar for a Muslim girl's marriage, only Muslim personal law could be applied and Shariat law made applicable for bride above 15 when the girl is presumed to attain puberty.
The judge also pointed out that there was growing demand among Indians to make the Prevention of Child Marriage Act more stringent and efficient to prevent and eradicate the evil practice of child marriage.
"The practice of child marriage runs counter to the social objective of the provisions of the act. As per the act the officials have power to prevent child marriage and also the courts."
Quoting various judgments, the judge also said "what is permissive under scriptures cannot be equated with mandate. Also religious practices are based on faith. But law is brought taking into consideration the social welfare, social justice, nation's interest, welfare of the people and other apsects."
The petitioners, including Abdul Khader, said they had arranged for the marriage of their daughter, born on May 18,1995, as per the Muslim personal law, but the officer for the sake of publicity had prevented it.
Meanwhile, a PIL has been filed in the Madras High Court Bench here seeking a direction to state government officials to desist from interfering with the marriage of Muslim girls.
The PIL, filed by advocate M. Mohammed Abbas, is expected to be listed for hearing before a division bench of Justice S. Tamilvanan and Justice V.S. Ravi on Friday.