The Madras high court has ruled that a wedding between minor girl and boy will not become void automatically without either of them obtaining a decree of divorce from family court within two years of their attaining the legal age for marriage.
A division bench comprising justices S Manikumar and CT Selvam gave the ruling while setting aside the order of a lower court in Tirunelveli in April last refusing to take on file a woman’s divorce petition on the ground that she was a minor while getting married in 1995 and hence the wedding had automatically become void then itself.
The bench said that though the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, prescribed a minimum age for marriage, the breach of the Act would render the marriage void under Section 11 or Section 12.
However, section 13 of the act, which lists out grounds for divorce, states that every child marriage shall be voidable at the option of the contracting party, provided that such marriage, whether consummated or not, was repudiated within two years of either of them attaining the marraige age -- 18 for women and 21 for men.
This anomaly was taken note of by a full bench of the high court, which had expressed hope that Parliament would carry out necessary amendments to avoid complications, the division bench noted.
It was apparent that the Tirunelveli court was under the mistaken impression of a marriage involving a child being void. Hence, it directed the Family Court in Tirunelveli to number the divorce petition and proceed in accordance with law.