The Supreme Court has held that under Section 9 of the Prohibition of Child Marriage act, 2006, a male between the ages of 18 and 21 years cannot be punished for marrying an adult female above the age of 18 years. This judgment was passed for a case wherein a couple had approached the High Court of Punjab and Haryana at Chandigarh seeking police protection which was granted to them. Later on, the father of the girl submitted the boy’s school records to prove that the boy was only 17 years of age at the time of marriage. The High Court then recalled the protection order and directed registration of an FIR for criminal offence under Section 9 of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act.
The bench comprising of Justice Mohan M. Shanthanagoudar and Justice Aniruddha Bose observed that the High Court could not have recalled its earlier order under Section 482 of Cr. P. C as there is no provision for recalling or reviewing an order passed by it in criminal matters. It stated that if the date of birth as given in the boy’s school certificate is accepted, the boy was 17 years old, i.e. below eighteen years of age when he married the girl and therefore Section 9 cannot be applicable to him. The Court went on examine Section 9 of The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act regarding a male aged between the ages of 18 and 21 as the minimum age for a male to marry is 21 years.
The Bench observed, “The 2006 Act does not make any provision for punishing a female adult who marries a male child. Hence, a literal interpretation of the above provisions of the 2006 Act would mean that if a male aged between the years of eighteen and twenty-one contracts marriage with a female above eighteen years of age, the female adult would not be punished, but it is the male who would be punished for contracting a child marriage, though he himself is a child. We are of the view that such an interpretation goes against the object of the Act as borne out in its legislative history. “
The Bench held that, “ The words “ male adult above eighteen years of age, contracts a child marriage” in Section 9 of the 2006 Act should be read as “male adult above eighteen years of age marries a child.”
The Court also clarified that in the cases of validity of marriages between a man aged between eighteen and twenty-one years and an adult woman, the man may have the option to get his marriage annulled under Section 3 of the 2006 Act, subject to the conditions prescribed therein. The Court also quashed the FIR lodged against the said couple as it was reported that they were living happily.
Link to Judgment: