‘A husband who is a minor can be the guardian of his minor wife,’ the Delhi High court Wednesday said, coming to the rescue of a minor couple by setting aside criminal cases filed against the boy by his wife’s family.
‘No other person can be appointed as the guardian of a minor girl, unless we find that her husband is unfit to act as her guardian for reasons other than his minority,’ said the court.
The court also told the government to educate youth about the ills of early marriage.
Despite their marriage, the two were not allowed to live together after the girl’s family raised serious objection to the marriage.
Providing relief to the couple, Sunil (18) and Neena (16), both names changed, a division bench of Justice Badar Durrez Ahmed and Justice V.K. Jain set aside the rape and abduction cases filed against the boy and allowed the girl to stay with him.
‘Neena’s welfare is of paramount importance, 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,’ observed the bench.
‘She would have the support of her in-laws who, as we have mentioned earlier, welcomed her. 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 guaranteed under article 21 of the constitution (protection of liberty),’ the court said.
The court also suggested that the state must take measures to educate the youth that getting married early places a huge burden on their development.
It also said that at the same time, when such marriages occur, they should be treated in a different manner.
‘The sooner the legislature examines these issues and comes out with a comprehensive and realistic solution, the better, or else courts will be flooded with habeas corpus petitions and judges would be left to deal with broken hearts, weeping daughters, devastated parents and petrified young husbands running for their lives chased by serious criminal cases, when their sin is that they fell in love,’ observed the bench.
Sunil and Neena got married May 3 at Sahibabad in Uttar Pradesh. Immediately after their marriage, Neena’s father lodged a first information report against Sunil accusing him of rape and abduction.
Three days later, police apprehended the couple from Rampur in Uttar Pradesh.
A trial court sent Sunil to a juvenile welfare home and Neena was handed over to her parents.
In her statement before a magistrate, she did not say anything against Sunil.
Later, she again ran away from her home and told a court that she did not wish to stay with her parents after which she was sent to a welfare home.
Her father moved the court challenging the marriage saying it was invalid as both of them were minors.
But the court rejected his plea and said: ‘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.’