Child marriage is banned, religion of the "contracting party" notwithstanding, ruled the Delhi high court on Saturday.
"Prohibition of Child Marriage Act (PCMA) being a special Act, it will override provisions of the Hindu Marriage Act (HMA) or for that matter any personal law in case there is any conflict," a three-judge bench headed by acting chief justice AK Sikri said in a 62-page judgment on child marriage.
The verdict will have a bearing on Muslim marriages as Muslim personal law allows boys and girls to marry at the age of 15, when they are supposed to have attained puberty.
Under PCMA, marriageable age for girls and boys is 18 and 21, respectively. The HMA-prescribed age is in conformity.
The verdict assumes significance as the conflict between PCMA and Muslim personal law has been playing out in various courts flooded with cases.
Mostly, parents of married minor girls lodge complaints of kidnapping and rape against the men/boys they eloped with.
Muslim scholar and former National Commission for Minorities chairman Tahir Mahmood said, "Under the Muslim Personal Law minimum age for marriage for both boys and girls is 15. It may be child marriage but is not invalid. As a national law, PCMA does override all personal laws including Muslim law. If there is any doubt in this regard, it is absolutely baseless".
Though the law tries to prohibit child marriages, such marriages are not invalid. According to section 3 of the PCMA, child marriages are voidable at the option of contracting party being a minor.