Marriage of minor willing to live with spouse on turning 18 valid: Bombay High Court

The Bombay High Court has said that the marriage of a 56-year-old advocate with a minor girl was valid after she expressed her willingness to live with him after turning 18.

A division bench of justices Ranjit More and Bharati Dangre said this in its judgement last week while hearing a petition filed by the advocate seeking to quash a rape case lodged against him for marrying a 14-year-old girl.

The complainant, who is now 18 years’ old, got “married” to the advocate, then aged 52, in 2014.

In her complaint, she alleged that she was forced into the marriage by her grandparents.

The advocate was subsequently in judicial custody for around 10 months and then released on bail.

The girl turned 18 on September 17, 2018, after which the advocate moved HC, seeking quashing of the case.

The woman last week filed an affidavit in the HC saying she has settled the dispute and wants to now cohabit with her husband and hence, has no objection for the case to be quashed.

Additional public prosecutor Aruna Kamat Pai opposed the petition, saying quashing such a case would set a bad precedent and send a wrong signal to the public at large.

The bench, in its order of May 2, however, noted that it was concerned about the woman’s welfare.

“Undisputedly she was a minor at the time of her marriage with the accused but now she has become major and has expressed her willingness to cohabit with the accused person,” the court said in its order.

“Since the complainant is ready to cohabit with the petitioner (advocate) as his legally wedded wife, the marriage, which otherwise is voidable, becomes valid,” the court said.

“We are also of the opinion that ultimately the complainant (woman) will suffer if the subject case is allowed to go on as she is now married and no one in the society would accept her as wife, and we think that at this stage securing her future is of prime importance,” it said.

The bench directed the woman’s husband to transfer 10 acres land in her name, open a fixed deposit (FD) account with Rs 7 lakh for her and ensure that she finishes her education.

The bench directed the police not to take any steps towards probing in the case.

The court adjourned the case to September, when it will see if the order has been complied with, and decide whether to quash the case.

The woman’s husband was arrested by the city police in December 2017 for rape and other offences under the Indian Penal Code and provisions of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act and the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act.

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