The Punjab & Haryana High Court has recently in the case of Priyapreet Kaur and Another v. State of Punjab and Others [CRWP-10828-2020 (O&M)] on 23 December 2020 has held the boy & the girl, both being major, have a right to live in but cannot marry because the boy is below the permissible  marriageable age.

Punjab and Haryana HC has observed that  “Parents cannot compel a child to live a life on their terms and that every adult individual has a right to live his or her life as he or she deems fit”. The High Court has rightly held so as our Constitution guarantees Right to life which means all citizens have freedom to live their lives as per their choice.

The High Court relied on Article 21 of the Constitution which guarantees life & personal liberty to every citizen of the Country. The Court held thus:

“Admittedly, he is a major. Merely because of the fact that petitioner No. 2 is not of a marriageable age the petitioners cannot possibly be denied enforcement of their fundamental rights as envisaged under Article 21 of the Constitution of India……………The petitioners, both being major, have decided to live together in a live-in relationship and there possibly may not be any legally justifiable reason for the respondents to object to the same”.

The brief facts of the case are that both the petitioners are above 18 years of age and wish to marry each other but the parents of the girl are not agreeable to their proposed marriage and have kept her confined in her room. However, the girl escaped and is now  living in a live-in relationship with the boy but are being threatened for life and inspite of representation, the police is not providing any protection.

The Court allowed the criminal writ petition and held thus:

“The private respondent Nos. 4 to 6 being family members of petitioner No.1, who is a major, cannot dictate to petitioner No.1 how and with whom she chooses to spend her life…The petitioners are both major and have every right to live their lives as they desire within the four corners of the law. The society cannot determine how an individual should live her or his life. The Constitution of India guarantees every individual the right to life and the choice of a partner is an important facet of the right to life.”

Thus, the High Court has in clear terms held that the right to live-in with a person of his/her choice is intrinsic to right to life and personal liberty.

An important & intriguing fact is that Court has  allowed the benefits of marriage by permitting live-in relationship without giving sanctity to the pious & legally binding institution of marriage. What would the impact on the youth if such incidents are given legal sanctity? The Courts ought to consider the impact of their orders on our society & moral values.

One more anomaly is that under Hindu Marriage Act 1955 the permissible age for marriage is 21 years for a male & 18 years in case of female. If anyone marries in violation of the said permissible age, there is contravention of Section 5 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. The question that arises is what is the legal sanctity of marriage in violation of aforesaid Section 5 of the HMA 1955?

The  Punjab & Haryana High Court recently on 15 June 2020 in the case of ‘Deepak Kumar and another vs State of Haryana and others’ has in clear terms held that  in view of Sections 12 of the said Act, such marriage  is not ‘void’ but  only ‘voidable’ but the Court ordered for registration of marriage.

The Court in the said case had categorically held thus:

“A perusal of the Hindu Marriage Act 1955, shows that in case, a marriage has been solemnized in violation of the age restriction laid down therein the marriage is only voidable. However, neither of the parties have sought annulment of the marriage. In fact, the parties are seeking to register their marriage. In law, their marriage is legal and there is no bar for Registration. The case is squarely covered by Baljit Kaur Boprai’s and Jyoti’s case supra.”

Perhaps the said precedent was not cited at bar. The right course for the Court would have been to  allow marriage of both the major couple & order for it’s registration rather than allowing just live-in relationship because the institution of marriage grants a plethora of rights to the woman and is socially more acceptable. Live-in relationship in our culture & Hindu society is looked down upon whereas marriage is held in high esteem. There can be no match between Live-in & institution of marriage and Court’ too must promote this cause as far as possible.

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January 2021