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child marriageA Delhi court has acquitted a man of the offence of marrying a minor, noting that the girl was on the verge of attaining maturity and had eloped on her own will.

Additional Sessions Judge Gautam Manan absolved the man of offences under Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, Protection of Children from Sexual Offences(POCSO) Act and the Indian Penal Code(IPC), saying the 17-year-old girl was “willing” and everything happened with her consent.

“…The victim has categorically deposed that the accused did not establish physical relationship with her before marrying her. Hence, the accused cannot be held to be guilty of committing offence of rape or sexual assault on her…

“Further, since the victim, who was on the verge of maturity, had married the accused of her own free will and consent, the offence under the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act does not stand established,” the judge said, adding “everything seems to have happened with her free will”.

The court acquitted the man of the offences of contracting child marriage under Prohibition of Child Marriage Act 2006, kidnapping and rape under IPC, and sexual assault under POCSO Act.

According to the prosecution, the girl’s father had lodged a missing complaint of his daughter on May 15, 2013 alleging that she was kidnapped by the accused.

She was taken to the police two months later by the mother of the accused, it said, after which he was arrested.

The court, while acquitting the accused, relied on the testimony of the girl, who said she was in love with him and had not been enticed by him in any manner and was now living happily with him as his wife.

During the trial, the accused had denied the allegations levelled against him.

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