In a judgment with mixed implications, the Punjab and Haryana High Court accepted the plea of a 17-year-old Muslim girl who had gotten married to a Hindu boy against the wishes of her family and relatives and ordered the police to protect the couple. The court said that a Muslim girl on attaining puberty was at liberty to marry anyone she likes and the guardian has no right to interfere if the match is equal.
While this verdict upholds a marriage between a Hindu man and a Muslim girl, on the flip side, it sanctifies the Shari’ah that governs civil matters of the Muslim population of India, allowing the marriage of a girl after she attains puberty. This implies that Muslims may continue to conduct child marriages.
“The law is clear that the marriage of a Muslim girl is governed by the Muslim Personal Law. As per Article 195 from the book, ‘Principles of Mohammedan Law by Sir Dinshah Fardunji Mulla’, Petitioner No.1 (girl) being 17 years of age, is competent to enter into a contract of marriage with a person of her choice. Petitioner No. 2 (her partner) is stated to be about 33 years old. Thus, Petitioner No. 1 is of marriageable age as envisaged by Muslim Personal Law,” observed Justice Harnaresh Singh Gill.
Justice Gill observed, “The court cannot shut its eyes to the fact that the apprehension of the petitioners needs to be addressed. Merely because the petitioners have got married against the wishes of their family members, they cannot possibly be deprived of the fundamental rights as envisaged in the Constitution.”
The counsel for the petitioner contended that under Muslim law puberty and majority were one and the same and that there is a presumption that a person attains majority at the age of 15 years. The counsel also contended that a Muslim boy or Muslim girl who attains puberty is at liberty to marry anyone he or she likes and their guardian has no right to interfere.
The lawyer said Article 195 from the book ‘Principles of Mohammedan Law by Sir Dinshah Fardunji Mulla’ defined capacity for marriage — every Mahomedan of sound mind, who has attained puberty, may enter into a contract of marriage.