DELHI: A court in the country’s capital stirred up controversy when it said on Monday that marraige with an underage girl was permissible under Indian Law.

The city court in Delhi said that provisions of the the Protection of Children from Sexual Offence (POCSO) Act suggested that where a physical relationship is undertaken with a minor girl – which is neither sexual assault nor has consent been taken by unlawful means – no offence can said to have been committed.

According to a Times of India report, the court made these observations while acquitting a 22-year-old native of West Bengal of charges of kidnapping and raping a 15-year-old girl, with whom he had eloped and later married.

The court said that since the girl had accompanied the youth of her own will, obstacles should not be put to destroy their happily married life.

According to the prosecution’s report, the girl’s mother had filed a complaint with the police on March 5 about her daughter going missing since February 26.

The accused was arrested on March 6, and the girl was recovered from his custody.

In a statement recorded before the magistrate, the girl said that she had willingly accompanied the youth to Kolkata, where they married in a temple and have been living together ever since.

The accused backed her statement in court, stating that they had married in Kalkota but denied having any physical relations with her.

Rejecting a plea from the police and Delhi Commission for Women that the POCSO Act prohibits minors from being involved in any kind of sexual activity, Additional Sessions Judge (ASJ) Darmesh Sharma declared that such an interpretation would mean that the body is state property until the age of 18.

He also added that such an interpretation would mean that "no individual below 18 years can be allowed to have pleasures associated with one's body."

However, Sharma emphasised on the need to spread awareness about unsafe sex and early marriage, and urged authorities to ensure that minors learn of the risks involved.

The POCSO Act, which came into force on November 14, 2012, defines all those aged under 18 years as children.

Disclosing the name of the child in the media or to any third party is punishable by up to a year.

The Act moreover prohibits the use of children for pornographic purposes, with punishment for such an offence ranging from five years to seven years, with the implementation of a heavy fine.

The Act also prohibits child trafficking for sexual purposes.

Moreover, assistance of any kind with the offence is also considered punishable under the POCSO Act.

However, such a marriage would be considered in contravention to international law.

UNICEF defines child marriages as a formal marriage or reunion before the age of 18. UN Women, moreover, define child marriage as a forced marraige before 18 years of age, because they believe children under 18 are incapable of giving their consent.

  • compiled by Zohra Ahmed
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Comments are closed.

Comments (48)

Rani Sharma
August 26, 2013 3:55 pm

The judge should be removed from office and barred from practicing law. his pension should be made invalid. The man was 22. he was an adult. When an adult marries a person below the age of 18 it is RAPE.

Abbas
August 26, 2013 5:17 pm

Paedophile will have a new haven.

Raja
August 26, 2013 5:34 pm

This is SICK!!! No wonder India's population is close to 1.5 billion and keep going higher.

khanm
August 26, 2013 5:44 pm

What is right and wrong, I don’t know any more ……I think there was an absolute, deep gap between consensual relations between adults, which people may like, or dislike, and people who physically impose themselves on children or misuse their authority to impose on children.

Agha Ata
August 26, 2013 6:01 pm

If marriage is a physical relation and nothing else, then I think the honorable judge is right, otherwise. . . .

moiez
August 26, 2013 6:10 pm

If this was Muslim boy there would have been a thousand comments demonizing Islam and how Muslims are child molesters and these Arabs come to India and marry girls that are under age (with permission of their parents).

Harvinder Singh
August 26, 2013 6:49 pm

Wrongly Quoted. Court ruled that consensual sex with the minor (under 18) is not a crime. So there is no reference of marriage in this order. Sex & marriage are both separate.

ZA
August 26, 2013 8:27 pm

It is not easy to pinpoint the exact age of marriage for a girl. The 18 years rule is certainly arbitrary and does not agree with the biological needs of the human race. Any girl is marriageable and capable of having children when her menstruation starts. Since the dawn of history this was the norm understood and followed by our ancestors. No harm has ever been done by this methodology yet. Instead it promoted good morals in the society by providing the necessary outlet to the needs of the teens. Nowadays people frequently postpone marriage due to economic necessity. It should therefore not be attributed to any divine or moral rule. Let the girls and their parents make the decision of when to get married. Governments should never interfere with it.

azmat khan
August 26, 2013 9:15 pm

@Rani Sharma: Dear Rani, it is a special case where the girl is agreed.Also in that case she must be physically fit also for the relationship.I think this marriage can be permitted. But this should not be generalized.

Gooch
August 26, 2013 9:27 pm

This judge needs his head examined. May be the he himself is a paedophile . How come this judge can not interpret the definition of an Adult. Lawless india.

imran
August 26, 2013 10:58 pm

dawn showed the picture of 6 year old bride and the news is regarding 15 years old.

Malik
August 26, 2013 11:01 pm

I never could understood this 18 thing, more common in west dominated UN etc.,. In my opinion, when a person attains puberty, he/she is no more a child.

ZQ
August 26, 2013 11:11 pm

Being that it's India, I cannot but think the religious angle. Is this a Hindu-Muslim issue with the judge favoring Hindu?

Sikander Abbas
August 26, 2013 11:16 pm

@Rani Sharma: Says who? Western world? If they have reached the puberty it is better to marry them off rather than they have illiicit relation with each other for a long time. Forced sexual encounter at any age is called rape. The court said that since the girl had accompanied the youth of her own will, obstacles should not be put to destroy their happily married life. Whats wrong with that?

Rana
August 27, 2013 12:01 am

This is socially and morally very wrong. Let children be children and enjoy their childhood. Please.

rashid zaidi
August 27, 2013 12:20 am

@Rani Sharma: Who set that criteria of age 18? Biologically a girl is ready at puberty to be a mother. Marriage is a contract needed in society to be law abiding and to be able to raise a family. We have followed the west in all this age stuff. In days gone by joint families use to look after the young bride as a child, she was a mother at perhaps 14 was common in India. Today's world with its complexities is different, but doesn't have to do with age either, it is economics. School/university profession etc; make it so late to be a mother, at least in the large urban areas.

Syed nazir
August 27, 2013 12:35 am

Child marriage will destroy the childhood

Manish Desai
August 27, 2013 12:36 am

What nonsense! How can a minor be adjudged to have exercised free will for conjugal relations when in all other matters that minor requires parental or state consent. Yes Mr. Sharma, a child is not the "property" of the state prior to turning 18, but is the RESPONSIBILITY of the state. Please understand the difference.

I shudder to think what the repercussions of this decision might be.

Nad
August 27, 2013 12:49 am

Where are those indian who always come on this website and talk against muslims and Pakistan. Where r you now?? See what is happening in your shining india. First look inside urself and ur society. ur society is completely ruining by following western culture. u indians were in better condition, as a Society, before following western culture.

Parvez
August 27, 2013 1:32 am

The state may make as many laws as it wishes but as long as the level of poverty that keeps people suppressed, is not addressed and the general well-being of the people not improved matters like this will keep cropping up and to instutute more laws to curb this results in a cycle that goes nowhere.

Concern
August 27, 2013 2:08 am

I dont know the whole case, some time we just consider wester values too much. Its not age its the physical condition of person, if they have reach adult hood not by age or western standard then no problem otherwise its crime but in any case its result of these so called libral movies where whole object is love(SEX) between man and women. Only five comments imagne if this was Pakistan and muslim families were involved then it would have been heading in Time magazine and million comments tells how Islam is and How india is more moderen then Pakistan...

KHK
August 27, 2013 2:56 am

The Law needs to be amended.

N.Khan
August 27, 2013 3:20 am

So what do you folks make up of all those young teenage girls in the west who have a number of boyfriends and are very sexually active before the age of 18?? Nobody there makes a fuss, they promote safe sex practices instead of calling it rape!

Mathew George
August 27, 2013 3:25 am

All over the problems are women or money ??? Men should understand that .

madan
August 27, 2013 5:19 am

This is not any different from giving young underage Indian Muslim girls in marriage to Sheikhs of middle eastern countries.Such marriages should be legally prohibited.

Ram Narayanan
August 27, 2013 5:23 am

@Rani Sharma: I agree. Throw the judge in jail.

ivehadit
August 27, 2013 6:29 am

Clearly the Honorable Judge (and Agha Ata) is mistaken. Children do not have the awareness or the maturity to be "consensual" partners.

rightthinker27
August 27, 2013 6:56 am

the judge should be forced out of position.

Iqbal
August 27, 2013 7:54 am

Ironic that a country founded on the principles of Islam is crying foul over underage marriage? Maybe you haven't read the hadiths?

M.Adeel
August 27, 2013 8:04 am

well I think it depends on what was the decision of the minor's family and what sort of physical relation or conditions this sort of marriage embodies. we cant just say its right or wrong i guess

Pradeep
August 27, 2013 8:13 am

Just because the West says, 18 is the right age, does not necessarily make it right for each situation. A girl of 15, if conscious enough to have eloped with a man, should have the right to make a judgment call on marriage if the decision is not made under duress as in when a Hindu girl is forced to marry a Muslim boy, that too after conversion. The state only has the duty to make sure that the decision was not forced, just like when in Asia, children are forced to marry by their parents.

Shoaib Khan
August 27, 2013 10:51 am

@Rani Sharma: But what about the girls and boys who have consensual sex even before they are 18 how would you define that,would love to hear comments

anon
August 27, 2013 11:05 am

I think this article has misinterpreted the court ruling. Another article on the judgement is given below. http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2013-08-26/delhi/414543911minor-girl-15-year-old-girl-18-years

abdul
August 27, 2013 11:56 am

misleading news title....it allowed marriage..............read the judgement

anon
August 27, 2013 12:14 pm

The ruling is not being interpreted correctly. Readers please read the article yourself and then form your opinions. Link is given below http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2013-08-26/delhi/414543911minor-girl-15-year-old-girl-18-years

Ali Shah
August 27, 2013 1:01 pm

I don't see what the brouhaha is all about. The age of consent at 18 has been set arbitrarily in a lot of countries. A lot of countries have an age of consent of 16 in Europe and some of them have it even lower. Spain has an age of consent of 13 even now (there is a whole link on wikipedia about it). At the beginning of the 20th century the age of consent in most states of the United states would vary anywhere from 9 to 12 years of age and considering the conditions prevalent in a lot of places in India 15 years of age might be just fine socially. The judge might have taken a lot of things into consideration so it seems that it might be ironic that the judge is being portrayed as an ignoramus.

Cosmic Lion
August 27, 2013 1:32 pm

@Sikander Abbas " If they have reached the puberty it is better to marry them off rather than they have illiicit relation with each other for a long time"

What kind of attitude is this? The choice of partner belong to the boy and girl...what on earth is marry them off....

Sonal
August 27, 2013 1:41 pm

Whether I agree with the issue discussed in the article or not is a separate issue, but I find it intriguing that for three days in a row this story has been in the 'Top Stories' and 'Highlights' section of the Dawn. I haven't looked on Indian media, but I'm sure

Agnostic
August 27, 2013 2:38 pm

@N.Khan: What you state is not correct. Sex between minors is not punishable by law but sex between an underage (of consent) person and an person who is considered an adult for the purposes of consensual sex is punishable under 'statutory rape'. So, even in the "west" if a girl (or a boy) who is underage has even "consensual" sex with an adult (male/female), the latter could be charged with rape.

Ravi Ingale from Pune
August 27, 2013 2:42 pm

Minor?? what is age range?? 0-17.99 year?? Means if a man like 5-year girl or below than then He can have relation with her?? Non-sense judgement.

NotNeeded
August 27, 2013 3:41 pm

Why such a debate? We need to wake up to the reality that minors in India do indulge in sex consensually.. This ruling has just accepted this fact... Its having sex forcibly, be it with a minor or an adult, that anyway amounts to rape... So if both the parties are willing, why should the state interfere in the personal choices of young people...

ivehadit
August 27, 2013 3:42 pm

@Ali Shah: Stop looking for answers to the wrong questions. Lets join the civilized world on this. Children under 18 are just too young to have the maturity and are easily manipulated by predatory adults. Let's draw from our own culture on this question. We need to protect our sisters from abuse, not rationalize it and turn our heads away when it happens.

Manesh Desai had the best response to this.

khanm
August 27, 2013 5:38 pm

@Rani Sharma: Thank God you are not in Pakistan or else you would have been jail for the contempt of court

NASAH (USA)
August 27, 2013 7:35 pm

Socially the world has moved ahead -- India is regressing by the day.

illawarrior
August 28, 2013 1:00 pm

@NotNeeded: Not all minors are created equally. What if this girl was 12? or 9? or 6?

illawarrior
August 28, 2013 1:02 pm

@Rani Sharma: in most countries, it is legal to marry at 16, with parental consent. At 18 no parental consent is required.

illawarrior
August 28, 2013 1:06 pm

@ZA: No harm has ever been done by this? You must be joking! Many young girls, especially 10-14 have suffered horrendously from pregnancy, and related injuries such as fistula.

illawarrior
August 28, 2013 1:12 pm

@madan: In the west, if both male and female are under the age of consent it is not considered to be statutory rape.... only if one is an adult, and one is a child. In most "western" countries, the age of consent for sex is 16. The age for marriage without parental consent is 18.

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