SC : In a recent judgement, the bench of Justice Mohan M. Shantanagoudar and Aniruddha Bose interpreted Section 9 of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006, said that a female adult would not be punished if she marries a male child.
The interpretation came while deciding the matter of Child marriage, it was observed that the husband was a child at the time of marriage while the female was adult.
The bench so also described Section 2 of the Act as under:
“Section 2(a) of the 2006 Act defines child as a person who, if a male, has not completed twentyone years of age, and if a female, has not completed eighteen years of age. Under Section 2(b) of the Act, “child marriage” means a marriage to which either of the contracting parties is a child. Thus, even if the husband is between eighteen and twentyone years of age, it can be treated as a child marriage”
The bench observed it unjustified that the High Court order to initiate criminal proceedings under section 9 of the 2006 act. Section 9 reads as under:
“Section 9. Punishment for male adult marrying a child. Whoever, being a male adult above eighteen years of age, contracts a child marriage shall be punishable with rigorous imprisonment which may extend to two years or with fine which may extend to one lakh rupees or with both.”
The act was to eradicate the harrowing practice of child marriage.
“Undoubtedly the Act is meant to eradicate the deplorable practice of child marriage which continues to be prevalent in many parts of our society. The Statement of Objects and Reasons declares that Prohibition of child marriage is a major step towards enhancing the health of both male and female children, as well as enhancing the status of women in particular”
The bench said that the provision was made to protect minor girls from child marriage, also given reasoning behind it.
“The intention behind punishing only male adults contracting child marriages is to protect minor girls“
The bench also observed that, there is no law to punish a male child who marries adult female.
“Nowhere from the discussion above can it be gleaned that the legislators sought to punish a male between the age of eighteen and twentyone years who contracts into a marriage with a female adult. Instead, the 2006 Act affords such a male, who is a child for the purposes of the Act, the remedy of getting the marriage annulled by proceeding under Section 3 of the 2006 Act. Hence, male adults between the age of eighteen and twentyone years of age, who marry female adults cannot be brought under the ambit of Section 9, as this is not the mischief that the provision seeks to remedy.”
The bench set aside the order of Punjab & Haryana HC and quashed the FIR. After observing couple living happily and have no threat, so bench also revoked the police protection.