Child marriage valid if minor cohabits after becoming adult: Bombay High Court

Mumbai: The otherwise illegal marriage of a child and an adult can be valid, if the minor agrees to cohabit with the spouse after attaining majority, ruled the Bombay High Court recently. The HC pronounced this ruling while dealing with a plea filed by a 56-year-old advocate, who had sought quashing of a criminal case registered against him for marrying a minor girl. A bench of Justices Ranjit More and Bharati Dangre was seized with the plea filed by the advocate, urging the termination of the criminal proceedings pending against him. He was booked by Kalachowkie Police for marrying a 14-year-old girl in 2015.

According to the prosecution, the advocate married the minor girl after his first wife died. The girl then lodged a complaint under the provisions of Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) act and the Indian Penal Code (IPC).  However, the girl, who is now 19 years old, changed her mind and agreed to withdraw the complaint filed by her against her husband. Dealing with this dispute, the bench of Justice More said, We have interacted with the minor girl, who is present before us. It seems she was not aware that the case would take such a serious turn. But now she is ready and willing to cohabit with the husband.

We are concerned about the welfare of the girl, who was undisputedly a minor at the time of her marriage. But now, she has become major and has expressed her willingness to cohabit with her husband and since she is ready to cohabit with him as his legally wedded wife, the marriage which otherwise is voidable, becomes valid, the bench ruled. The bench further said that if the criminal case is kept pending, the girl would be the only sufferer as she is now married and no one in the society would accept her as a wife.

During the course of the hearing, the advocate assured the judges, he would be investing Rs 7.5 lakh as a Fixed Deposit (FD) in the name of his wife and would also transfer 11 acres land in her name. The bench, while staying the criminal proceedings, refused to quash the FIR on the ground that it would be observing his conduct towards his wife and then decide on quashing the FIR. The matter has accordingly been adjourned till February 2020.

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