Case BriefsHigh Courts

Allahabad High Court: Vikas Kunvar Srivastav, J., addresses whether a minor girl on attaining majority can ratify the agreement of marriage that she had entered into when she was a minor? The legality of such an agreement tested.

Instant petition was moved on behalf of ‘Sadhna Kumari’ aged about 18 years through her next friend. Next friend allegedly the husband aged about 19 years.

OPs 4 and 5 (Parents of Petitioner Sadhna Kumari) with whom petitioner’s unlawful detention was complained.

Next Friend pleaded that the detenue petitioner Sadhna Kumari and next friend Shekhar were legally wedded and living as husband and wife since after an agreement purported to be of marriage.

Analysis and Decision

Bench noted that the petitioner’s counsel failed to show material averment as to the ‘solemnization of marriage’. Its date, place and time so as to establish the wedding of the petitioner and her next friend the alleged husband.

‘Agreement’ dated 31-07-2020 was pleaded as the basis of legal authority of the next friend to seek habeas corpus of petitioner Sadhna Kumari.

Purpose of Writ

It is to facilitate the next friend to cohabit with petitioner without interruption of anyone else, even the parents of Sadhna Kumari (OPs 4 and 5) with whom she is presently residing.

Legality of Agreement dated 31-07-2020

As per the High School Examination certificate, Sadhna Kumari’s date of birth was 17-03-2003. In view of the stated material fact, the ‘agreement’ purported to be of marriage when allegedly executed by the petitioner Sadhna Kumari on 31-7-2020 she was a minor aged about 17 years and 4 months, therefore, at the relevant date of agreement despite the alleged agreement of her consent to cohabit with Shekhar Pandey, the next friend as husband and wife, she could not be supposed to give valid consent in law.

A criminal case has been registered against the next friend on the complaint of the petitioner’s mother.

Agreement of which either party to it is a minor- Legal Status 

Agreements which are made enforceable in law are provided under the Indian Contract Act, 1872. Section 11 of the Indian Contract Act states that:

“every person is competent to contract who is of the age of majority according to the law to which he is subject, and who is of sound mind and is not disqualified from contracting by any law to which he is subject.”

 It is pertinent to keep in mind the age of the majority which capacitates a person to contract.

Since petitioner’s date of birth was 17-03-2003, she was undoubtedly on the date of ‘agreement’ dated 31-07-2020 a minor.

As per the definitions given in Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929 and Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 such a person has termed a child.

Court stated that the petitioner was a minor as well as a child also when she allegedly entered into the agreement to marry on 31-7-2020. Further, she was party to an agreement of marriage.

An agreement must not be opposed to law. The law applicable to petitioner being a Hindu, is “The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955”.

Section 5 (iii) of the said Act provides the marriageable age, according to which the marriage may be solemnized between any two Hindus, if the following conditions are fulfilled: –

“(iii) the bride groom has completed the age of twenty one years and the bride, the age of eighteen years at the time of the marriage.”

High Court held that The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 and The Indian Contract Act, 1872 the petitioner had no legal capacity and competence to enter into the agreement to marry with Shekhar. Court added that even Shekhar was not of marriageable age under the law.

India Law states that in marriage where either the woman is below the age of 18 years or the man is below the age of 21 years, such marriage, if solemnized by the guardians becomes voidable under Section 5 of the Hindu Marriage Act at the instance of minor. He has option to ratify the marriage also.

 In the present matter, marriage was being claimed as an agreement to cohabit as husband and wife by virtue of an agreement dated 31-07-2021. Hence, the question was – whether on attaining the majority age a minor was competent to ratify his/her agreement executed in the age of minority?

Legal Position to address the above question:

(i) contract with minor is void and no legal obligation can ever arise on him/her therein,

(ii) the minor party cannot ratify the contract upon attaining majority unless the law specifically allows this, and

(iii) no court can allow specific permission of a contract with minor because it is void altogether.

When a contract is entered on behalf of lawful authority of a minor then only the option is available attaining majority to minor either to ratify or to rescind the contract entered by the person having lawful authority on his behalf.

Therefore, in view of the above discussion, the agreement dated 31-7-2020 of which one of the parties namely petitioner Sadhna Kumari a minor, is void, as the same is in violation of Sections 11 and 23 of the Indian Contract Act, 1872.

Elaborating its conclusion, High Court added that agreement dated 31-7-2020 purporting to be of marriage and consent to cohabit together, cannot be given effect so as to issue notice to opposite parties for the production of the petitioner in court for the purpose of recording her desire to ratify her alleged agreement to marry/consent deed, for the reason of the same being a void agreement.

Bench while dismissing the petition stated that this decision shall not impede the petitioner to enter into marital relations with a person of her choice on attaining marriageable age through a lawfully solemnized marriage or otherwise. [Sadhna Kumari v. State of U.P., 2021 SCC OnLine All 276, decided on 15-04-2021]


Advocates before the Court:

Counsel for the Petitioner: Janardan Singh

Counsel for the Respondent: G.A.

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Allahabad High Court: J.J. Munir, J., directed that the minor in the instant case who stated that she married the accused of her free will, be housed in a State facility or shelter home which shall be other than a Nari Niketan or a home meant for delinquents, till she attains the age of eighteen years.

Chhavi a minor was the daughter of Chhanga who is the second petitioner. He had filed an FIR against Laxman under Sections 363 and 366 of Penal Code, 1860.

It was stated that Chhanga’s minor daughter had gone to fetch her cattle when the three accused were seen around her, after which she went traceless. A video was made viral by the co-accused in which it was shown that Chhavi was in the company of Laxman. Hence another FIR was registered under Section 66 of the Information Technology Act, 2000.

Chhavi in her statement before the Magistrate stated that she had accompanied Laxman of her free will and was in love with him. Further, it was added that she married Laxman and was now in her family way.

After investigation, a charge-sheet had been filed against Laxman under Sections 363, 366, 376 of IPC and Section 7/4 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012.

Bench noted that Chhavi was staying of her freewill without any compulsion, duress or pressure, which clearly implies that she was not in any kind of illegal confinement.

Whether Chhavi is within her rights under the law to stay of her freewill with Meena, who is Laxman’s sister, the man she has married?

If it were to be held that Chhavi was a minor on the date she married Laxman, a subsidiary question that would also be of some consequence to the parties’ future is, whether the marriage would be void or voidable?

With regard to the determination of age, Bench stated that principles applicable to the determination of age in the case of a juvenile would in terms apply to cases of determination of the age of a victim as well.

Bench noted that the provisions of Section 94(2) of the Act of 2015 spare no room for the Court to look into any evidence, in the face of date of birth certificate from the school or the matriculation, or an equivalent certificate from the examination board.

A plain reading of Section 94 of 2015, Act would reveal that only in absence of: (a) the date of birth certificate from the school, or the matriculation or equivalent certificate from the concerned examination Board; and (b) the birth certificate given by a corporation or a municipal authority or a panchayat, age is to be determined by an ossification test or any other latest medical age determination test conducted on the orders of the Committee or the Board.

Therefore, notwithstanding the prosecutrix’s stand that she is 20-years-old and has married Laxman of her freewill, she cannot be heard to prove her age anything different from what it is recorded in her high school certificate.

Hence, Chhavi was to be held a minor on the date of her marriage and till date. CWC ordered her to be given in the foster care of Laxman’s sister.

Further, the Court added that even if Chhavi’s case that she married Laxman of her freewill were accepted, she cannot be permitted to live in the foster care of his sister, where access to each other cannot be guarded.

In view of the above discussed High Court held that so long as Chhavi is a minor, irrespective of the validity of her marriage to Laxman, she cannot be permitted to be placed in a position where there is a likelihood of carnal proximity. If it were permitted, it would be an offence both under the Penal Code and under the Act of 2012.

The Supreme Court decision in Independent Thought v. Union of India, (2017) 10 SCC 800 completely excludes the possibility of sanctioning or decriminalising carnal relations between a man and his wife, the wife being below the age of 18 years.

It is not difficult to infer that in the home, where Laxman’s sister Meena stays with her in-laws, Chhavi cannot be extended the protective cover envisaged for a girl below the age of 18 years, insulating her from any kind of sexual activity, even with her husband.

Validity of Chhavi’s marriage to Laxman

Court opined that, the validity of the marriage must be examined in order to do substantial justice to the parties.

Marriage of a minor child to be void in certain circumstances.–Where a child, being a minor-

(a) is taken or enticed out of the keeping of the lawful guardian; or

(b) by force compelled, or by any deceitful means induced to go from any place; or

(c) is sold for the purpose of marriage; and made to go through a form of marriage or if the minor is married after which the minor is sold or trafficked or used for immoral purposes, such marriage shall be null and void.

Since nothing was recorded by the Judicial Magistrate that may have attracted the provision of Section 12 of the  Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006.

Thus, Chhavi’s marriage to Laxman was not a void marriage; rather a voidable marriage at the option of Chhavi, by virtue of Section 3 of the Act.

Lastly, the Bench held that Chhavi, after she turns a major or even before that, can petition the competent court to have the marriage annulled, and she could do so within two years of attaining majority. Of course, she can acknowledge and elect to accept the marriage.

Adding to its conclusion in view of the above discussion, Court stated that all that Chhavi chooses to do is not this Court’s determination, but it is to clarify the inter se rights of parties vis-à-vis their marriage, that the Court has ventured to examine the legal status of the marriage, which Chhavi supports as her voluntary act, while a minor.

In the opinion of this Court, under the circumstances, Chhavi has to be housed in a State facility or shelter home which shall be other than a Nari Niketan or a home meant for delinquents. She has to be accommodated in a safe home/shelter home with all necessary facilities, where she and her child can stay comfortably, till she attains the age of eighteen years.

Habeas Corpus Petition was allowed in view of the above. [Chhavi (Minor) v. State of U.P., 2021 SCC OnLine All 219, decided on 10-03-2021]


Advocates before the Court:

Counsel for Petitioner: Ajay Kumar

Counsel for Respondent :G.A., ,Pankaj Kumar Govil, Pankaj Govil

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madras High Court: R. Pongiappan, J., observed that:

“…saptpadi for Hindus is the necessary requirement, which if completed make a marriage valid in the eyes of law provided the parties are of sound mind and don’t fall within the prohibited degrees of relationship with each other.”

Instant appeal was filed to set aside the judgment and conviction passed by Sessions Judge.

Accused was charged for the offences under Sections 366 and 376(1) of Penal Code, 1860.

Analysis and Decision

Bench noted that in respect to alleged marriage, PW 10 who is the victim girl had stated before the trial Court that on the date of occurrence, both herself and the accused ran away from the village and accused tied thali to her. In light of the said evidence, it appeared that the victim girl had also consented for the marriage.

Additional Public Prosecutor appearing for the State contended that since the alleged marriage had happened to the victim was at the age of 15 years and 10 months, the said marriage is not legally valid and also the same has not been solemnised as per Hindu rites and customs.

This Court also found that the girl had not completed the age of 16 years at the time of above-stated alleged marriage for which she consented

Further, the Bench observed that during the time of occurrence, the accused had induced the victim girl to go to Palani and afterwards, he tied a thali, Section 361 of IPC was referred which talks about the “kidnapping from lawful guardianship”.

Applying the abovesaid provision along with Section 366 IPC, Court stated that the victim girl was kidnapped for the purpose of marrying her.

Void Marriage

“… a marriage in which either the girl is below 18 years of age, or the boy is below 21 years of age is child marriage.”

Court expressed that in our country, the essential condition for the validity of any marriage is solemnization of the religious ceremonies prescribed by the religion to which the parties belong.

In respect to the instant matter, it was found that the accused and victim girl had not performed the necessary religious ceremonies prescribed by the religion and since the victim girl was of 16 years of age, the alleged marriage with the accused was void.

Sexual Intercourse

With regard to alleged forcible sexual intercourse, it was found that victim girl stayed the accused for a considerable period but during that time, she did not seek for help or even try running away from the place, the said attitude of the victim girl proves that the alleged sexual intercourse had happened only with her consent.

Section 375 IPC

As per the definition of Section 375 IPC, since the victim girl had not completed the age of 18 years at the time of occurrence, according to 6th description of the said Section, Court found that the accused had committed an offence of rape.

Therefore trial Court’s finding of charging the accused under Sections 366 and 376(1) IPC was within four corners of law and no infirmity was found in the said findings.

Since both the victim girl and accused got married themselves and separated along with respective spouses, Court modified the sentence as 5 years instead of 7 years under Section 366 IPC and for the offence under Section 376(1) IPC, Court modified the sentence as 7 years instead of 10 years.

Hence, the Criminal Appeal was partly allowed.[Prakash v. State, 2020 SCC OnLine Mad 6025, decided on 30-11-2020]


Advocates who appeared before the Court:

For Appellant: B. Thirumalai for S.Nagarajan

For Respondent: S. Karthikeyan Additional Public Prosecutor

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Calcutta High Court: A Division Bench of Harsh Tandon and Soumen Sen, JJ., addressed the matter in regard to the child marriages in the garb of child trafficking and called for detailed status reports for the same.

Additional Chief Secretary, Home Affairs Department and Home Secretary district-wise details of the cases in relation to violation of child rights of all forms till 15th June, 2020 has been disclosed.

The above-mentioned report details out the nature of the violation of child rights and the steps taken by the police authorities in connection with such cases.

Alarming rise of child marriages during the lockdown has given a strong impression that these child marriages may be in the garb of child trafficking.

In view of the above Court directed Superintendent of Police of every district to investigate into the cases regarding child marriage and to find out if child marriages are for economic consideration or under the garb of child trafficking.

With regard to North-24 Parganas report, Court directed the Home Secretary to file a report disclosing such “other violation of child rights” and the steps taken by the police against the violators.

Further the Court also directed the Superintendent of Police of all the districts to ensure that the victims are produced immediately and not later than 48 hours before the Magistrates for recording of statement under Section 164 of the CrPC.

Most of the Juvenile Justice Boards have been functioning under tremendous stress and infrastructure is extremely inadequate.

Court noted the following deficiencies:

  1. No chamber for the Principal Magistrate and other members of the committee,
  2. Lack of office space,
  3. No separate room for vulnerable child witnesses,
  4. No separate entrance for the C.C.L. and vulnerable witnesses,
  5. No official vehicle is assigned to the Principal Magistrate,
  6. Lack of broad-band connection and inconsistent bandwidth,
  7. Lack of hardware and software infrastructure required for audio- video linkage,
  8. Inadequate and/or no support staff like bench clerk, lower division clerk-cum-typist, counsellor etc.,
  9. No separate provision of wash-room for female staff/members/lady officers,
  10. No separate room for counselling for the C.C.L.s and for sitting of social worker members,
  11. Lack of maintenance of public toilets and wash-room of Principal Magistrates

Advocate General assured the Court that he would immediately take the the above issues with the Home Secretary and would apprise the steps taken to remove such deficiencies.

Report filed by the Secretary, Department of Health and Family Welfare shows that 75 children of the migratory workers have been found to be Covid-19 positive and subsequently they were referred to designated COVID hospitals, samples were collected from asymptomatic children of migratory workers and 43 of such samples were reported as positive.

Considering the safety of the children bench would like to know if any random test was carried out of the children of the migratory workers and if so, disclose the result of such random test with specific comment as to whether anyone of them tested positive, save and except the particulars already disclosed.

Report to be filed with regard to investigation in child trafficking case

Court has also asked the Advocate General to file a report with regard to a newspaper report wherein it appeared that one female minor girl had been recovered by Maharashtra Police.

Court adjourned the matter till 2nd July, 2020. [Contagion of COVID-19 Virus in Children, In Re., 2020 SCC OnLine Cal 1066   , decided on 25-06-2020]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In order to harmonise Exception 2 to Section 375 IPC of the with the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO Act), the spirit of other pro-child legislations and the human rights of a married girl child, the bench of Madan B. Lokur and Deepak Gupta, JJ held that the Exception 2 to Section 375 of the IPC to should now be meaningfully read as: “Sexual intercourse or sexual acts by a man with his own wife, the wife not being under eighteen years of age, is not rape.” Both the judges wrote concurring but separate judgments.

Lokur, J, stating that holding sexual intercourse with a minor wife was the only way by which the intent of social justice to the married girl child and the constitutional vision of the framers of the Constitution could be preserved, said:

“Viewed from any perspective, there seems to be no reason to arbitrarily discriminate against a girl child who is married between 15 and 18 years of age. On the contrary, there is every reason to give a harmonious and purposive construction to the pro-child statutes to preserve and protect the human rights of the married girl child.”

Drawing an analogy between various laws land especially with POCSO Act, Lokur, J said that while the husband of a married girl child might not have committed rape for the purposes of the IPC but he would nevertheless have committed aggravated penetrative sexual assault for the purposes of the POCSO Act. He added that there is also no real distinction between the rape of a married girl child and aggravated penetrative sexual assault punishable under Section 6 of the POCSO Act. He said:

“marital rape of a girl child is effectively nothing but aggravated penetrative sexual assault and there is no reason why it should not be punishable under the provisions of the IPC.”

Gupta, J, on the question that whether the Court was creating a new offence, explained that the Court was merely reading down Exception 2 to Section 375 IPC to bring it in consonance with the Constitution and POCSO since the offence already exists in the main part of Section 375 IPC as well as in Section 3 and 5 of POCSO. He said:

“this Court is not creating any new offence but only removing what was unconstitutional and offensive.”

He also noticed that Exception 2 to Section 375 IPC was the only provision in various penal laws which gave immunity to the husband. He said:

“The husband is not immune from prosecution as far as other offences are concerned. Therefore, if the husband beats a girl child and has forcible sexual intercourse with her, he may be charged for offences under Sections 323, 324, 325 IPC etc. but he cannot be charged with rape.”

He further added:

“It does not stand to reason that only for the offence of rape the husband should be granted such an immunity especially where the “victim wife” is aged below 18 years i.e. below the legal age of marriage and is also not legally capable of giving consent to have sexual intercourse.”

The Court, hence, held that Exception 2 to Section 375 IPC was arbitrary, capricious, whimsical and violative of Article 14, 15 and 21 of the Constitution of India. It was, however, made clear that the verdict will apply prospectively. [Independent Thought v. Union of India, 2017 SCC OnLine SC 1222, decided on 11.10.2017]

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Supreme Court: Hearing the plea questioning the validity of a provision permitting a man to have physical relationship with his wife, even if she was aged between 15 and 18 years, the bench of Madan B. Lokur and Deepak Gupta, JJ expressed dismay over the prevalence of the practice of child marriage despite the existence of the Child Marriage Prohibition Act and said

“It is a hard reality and is unfortunate that most of the child marriages happening in the country are done by parents of the girl child. However, to this, there are odd exceptions when a minor boy and girl fall in love and marry on their own.”

Advocate Gaurav Agarwal, appearing for NGO Independent Thought, brought to the Court’s notice that by the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013, the age of consent for sexual intercourse by a girl, which was earlier 16 years has now been increased to 18 years, however, exception 2 to section 375 of the IPC still retains the age of consent as 15 years, due to which there is a huge gap of three years in the age of consent for a married girl child and an unmarried girl. He added that if the object behind increasing the age of consent to 18 years in 2013, was that a girl below that age is incapable of realising the consequences of her consent, then marriage of girl between the age of 15-17 years does not make the girl mature enough, mentally or physically, for the purpose of consent.

Taking note of the argument, the Court sought to know whether it can create an offence by striking down the exception 2 of section 375 of IPC which the Parliament has refused to do. It also showed concern over the fate of the children born from such marriages if the provision was struck down.

The Centre, on the other hand, had contended that child marriage were still happening in the country due to uneven economic and educational development and it has been, therefore, decided to retain the age of 15 years under exception 2 of section 375 of IPC, so as to give protection to husband and wife against criminalising the sexual activity between them.

The next date of hearing on the matter is 05.09.2017.

Source: PTI

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Supreme Court: The bench of Madan B. Lokur and Deepak gupta, JJ has sought response from the Centre as to whether Parliament has debated the aspect of protecting married girls between the age group of 15-18 years from the forced sexual acts by their spouses and whether the court could intervene to protect the rights of such married girls who may be sexually exploited by their spouses.

The Court was hearing the plea that had challenged the constitutionality of the exception under Section 375 IPC which says the intercourse or sexual act by a man with his wife, not below 15 years, is not a rape. NGO Independent Thought contended that the distinction made in between 18 and 15 is illegal and unconstitutional as a girl in the age group of 15-18 is not that physically developed and she is not capable of taking an informed decision or consent. It was argued that the Parliament cannot impinge upon Article 21 by allowing the girl to marry under 18 years of age and allowing her to get pregnant or have intercourse. Centre, however, responded by saying that all the aspects have been considered pragmatically by the Parliament and keeping the child marriage prevalent in some societies,  the age of 15 has been kept as a threshold.

The bench noticed that declaring the law unconstitutional may have some serious repercussions as there are cases when college-going teens, below 18 years of age, engage in sexual activities consensually and get booked under the law and the boy suffers even when he is not at fault. Similarly, when a girl, under 18 years of age, elopes and engages in consensual sexual activity, the male gets booked for rape. The Court, hence, asked the Centre to apprise it about the number of prosecutions under the Child Marriage Act for past three years in three weeks and listed the matter for hearing after 4 weeks.

Source: PTI