Teenage Marriages

Legislatures need to work out a “comprehensive and realistic solution” to deal with teenage marriages without parents’ consent so that judges are not left to deal with weeping daughters, devastated parents and petrified young husbands running for their lives.

The Delhi High Court while making this observation also said the government must take measures to educate the youth that getting married early places a huge burden on their development.

“India is both a modern and a tradition bound nation at the same time. The old and evil practices of parents forcing their minor children into matrimony subsists along with the modern day problem of children falling in love and getting married on their own”.

“Whatever be the reason, the reality must be accepted and the state must take measures to educate the youth that getting married early places a huge burden on their development,” the bench comprising justice BD Ahmed and justice VK Jain said.

The court said that in countries like the USA and Canada many states have recognized teenage marriages provided that the boy and girl are both above 16 years of age and the minor has his or her parents’ consent.

Terming child marriages contracted by the parents on behalf of their children as “a scourge” the court said there is difference between marriages forced upon the children and those done by minors themselves without the consent of their parents.

The court made these observations while allowing a young couple to stay as husband and wife holding that the 18-year-old husband was capable of taking care of his 16-year-old wife.

The minor boy, who tied the knot with a minor girl against the wishes of their family members, approached the court seeking custody of his wife which is not being allowed by his in-laws.

Elaborating, the court said the parents of a minor girl, who tied knot with a minor boy, cannot prevent her to live with her husband since after marriage the boy becomes her lawful guardian.

Explaining the legal point on the issue, the court said “a minor husband is not incompetent, in law, to act as guardian of his minor wife”.

18-year Jitendra Kumar Sharma approached the court after a criminal case was registered against him on the complaint of family members of 16-year-old minor girl Poonam Sharma who alleged the boy had abducted her.

While validating the minor couple’s marriage, the court said that after marriage the husband becomes her lawful guardian.

“Poonam is a minor Hindu girl who is married. Her natural guardian is no longer her father but her husband. A husband who is a minor can be the guardian of his minor wife. No other person can be appointed as the guardian of Poonam, unless we find that Jitender is unfit to act as her guardian for reasons other than his minority,” the court said.

The court said that welfare of the girl, who expressed desire to live with her husband, should be paramount and she cannot be forced to live in shelter home after her parents refused to accept the relationship.

“She cannot be forced or compelled to continue to reside at Nirmal Chhaya or some other such institution as that would amount to her detention against her will and would be violative of her rights,” the court said.

“We are of the view that her welfare would be best served if she were to live with her husband. She would get the love and affection of her husband. She would have the support of her in-laws who, as we have mentioned earlier, welcomed her, the court said.

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