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The Delhi High Court Friday asked a larger bench to consider whether or not a minor’s marriage, conducted with her/his consent, is to be declared legal.

It also termed void the marriage of 17-year-old Chandni till she attains majority and directed her to stay with her parents till that time.

A division bench of Justice A.K. Sikri and Justice Ajit Bharihoke said: ‘Child marriages are prevalent in many parts of this country and the reality is more complex than what it seems to be. The surprising thing is that almost all communities where this practice is prevalent are well aware of the fact that marrying a child is illegal, now it is even punishable under the law.’

The bench, while hearing the case of Chandni, came to a fix when she told the judges that she married an overaged man with her own consent.

The court was hearing a habeas corpus filed by Association for Social Justice and Research for tracing Chandni, who the NGO feared had been married forcefully to a 40-year-old man for money.

After the court’s direction, the girl with her husband was presented before the court and sent to judicial custody.

On questioning Chandni’s father Vijay Pal, the court came to know that he married Chandni off as he was not able to take care of her properly with his daily wage job as he had five other children.

‘Though NGOs as well as government agencies have been working for decades to root out this evil, the reality is that the evil continues to survive. Sociologists attribute it to reasons like poverty, culture, tradition and values based on patriarchal norms,’ the court said while asking a larger bench to consider whether to declare a minor’s marriage, if done with consent, as legal or not.

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