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SC stays Delhi HC verdict on runaway marriages

SC stays Delhi HC verdict on runaway marriages

india Updated: Apr 01, 2006 11:20 IST

The Supreme Court has stayed a controversial decision of the Delhi High Court expressing inability to take action against 'runaway marriages' by teenagers.

The interim order came on a petition filed by National Commission for Women (NCW) challenging the October 5, 2005 decision of the Delhi High Court and a similar order of the Andhra Pradesh High Court passed last month.

The court has issued notices to the Centre, Delhi government, and Nirmal Chhaya, a remand home for girls, in the matter.

The court also sought the assistance of the Law Commission of India in the matter.

The Delhi High Court had expressed its inability to act against teenage husbands in runaway marriages fighting legal provisions under the Child Marriage Act, the Hindu Marriage Act and the Juvenile Justice Act, which do not make child marriages illegal.

The Delhi High Court had said that it was for the Parliament to take appropriate measures to remove inadequacies in the law.

The High Court had ruled that the marriage of a minor girl above 15 years of age is not illegal if it is of her free will and that she cannot be sent to 'Nari Niketan' against her will in such cases.

"The marriage was neither void nor illegal on account of the spouse being less than 18 and over 15 years of age," the court had said, in connection with three separate cases where minor girls above 15 had eloped and married men of their choice and the girls' parents had lodged cases of kidnapping against their sons-in-law.

The court had quashed the FIRs and ordered release of the three husbands, saying that the essential ingredient of the offence of kidnapping - taking away or enticing away of the minor - was missing in these cases.

The court had also ordered the girls to be released from Nari Niketan and allowed them, including a pregnant girl, to accompany their respective husbands.

"The girls, having reached the age of discretion, had accompanied the men of their choice at their own will," the court had said, noting that "evidence suggested that the initiative came from them and they got married of their own accord and were desirous of living with their respective husbands".