SC Issues Notice to Centre on Uniform Age of Marriage for Muslim Girls

10 December, 2022 | Pranay Lad

SC National

The NCW petitioned the SC on Friday to equalise the minimum age of marriage for Muslim girls with that of people of other religions, and the SC responded by giving notice to the Centre.

In response to a plea by the National Commission for Women (NCW) asking that Muslim girls be allowed to marry at the same age as those of other religions, the Supreme Court sent notice to the Centre on Friday.

DY Chandrachud, the Chief Justice of India, and Justice PS Narasimha asked the Centre for a response within four weeks. In India, the legal minimum age for marriage is presently 21 for men and 18 for women. But for Muslim women, the legal marriage age is considered to be 15 years old, or when they reach puberty.

According to the NCW, permitting Muslims to get hitched at puberty (about 15) is arbitrary, unreasonable, discriminatory, and against the law.

Even the Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses Act (POCSO), according to the argument in the lawsuit, forbids consenting to sex for anybody under the age of 18.

It stated that the PIL was filed to enforce the fundamental rights of young Muslim women to have Islamic personal law be consistent with laws that apply to people of other faiths.

A 15 years old Muslim girl is competent to enter into a contract of marriage with a person of her choice under Muslim Personal Law, the Punjab and Haryana High Court’s ruling stated. Earlier, the Supreme Court agreed to consider the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) appeal of that ruling.

In order to help the court, it had served notice on the Punjab government and named eminent lawyer Rajshekhar Rao as an amicus curiae.

A 15-year-old Muslim girl was found to be competent to enter into a contract of marriage with the person of her choice by the High Court in June, according to the court’s ruling, which referenced the marriage-related rules of the Muslim Personal Law.

The NCPCR aimed to guarantee the correct application of statutory legislation created expressly to safeguard children under the age of 18.

In support of its arguments against the High Court’s decision, the Commission emphasised the provisions of the PCMA of 2006 and the POCSO, which protect children from sexual offences.

According to NCPCR, the ruling violates PCMA, which is a universally applicable secular law, according to the petition.

No minor under the age of 18 is allowed to offer a legally binding consent, according to POCSO regulations, it stated.

The high court’s decision was based on a petition filed by a Muslim couple from Pathankot who claimed their relatives had threatened them for getting married without their consent and who had come to the court seeking protection.

The girl and the male, who was 21 years old, claimed to have wed in accordance with Muslim customs.

The High Court had awarded the Muslim couple protection, adding that it is evident from the statute that a Muslim girl’s marriage is governed by Muslim Personal Law.