A young Muslim couple’s appeal to the Supreme Court to protect their marriage has pitted Muslim personal law against criminal law.
The girl is 15 years old and the man 21. They say their marriage is legal under Muslim law as it allows girls to marry once they are 15 years old.
But so far as the Indian Penal Code goes, this is kidnapping. Which is what the girl’s father has charged the man with. He has filed an FIR in Nainital’s Kashipur town, saying the ‘husband’ enticed his daughter from her lawful guardians.
The couple moved the Uttarakhand High Court to get the FIR quashed, but were refused. They then moved Supreme Court and on Friday, a bench admitted their petition.
Senior advocate Vikas Singh contended on their behalf that personal law would have precedence over general law. “Under Muslim law, a girl can get married when she attains puberty. In the absence of evidence to the contrary, the person is presumed to have attained puberty at 15 years,” Singh said.
The apex court also protected the man from arrest, saying: “The police shall not arrest him until further orders.”
The couple got married at Nainital’s district court on December 7, 2009. On December 13, the case against the man was lodged at the behest of the girl’s father who was against the inter-caste union (the girl is Saifi, the man from the Sheikhzade caste).
According to the couple’s petition to the Supreme Court, the Indian Majority Act, 1875 is not applicable to Muslims in matters of marriage and divorce.