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FPJ Legal: State or society cannot interfere with individual's choice of marriage, rules Bombay HC

09:40 PM Jun 18, 2021 | Narsi Benwal

MUMBAI: In a significant ruling, the Bombay High Court bench of Justices Vishwas Jadhav and Shrikant Kulkarni at the Aurangabad seat on Monday held that the state or the society cannot interfere into the choices of individuals as to whether to marry or not and if yes then to whom. The bench held that if parents oppose the marriage of their children, even in good faith, they cannot do so at the cost of their fundamental rights.

"The decision to marry someone rests exclusively with the individuals themselves," the judges held, adding, "Neither the state nor society can intrude into that domain. The strength of our Constitution lies in its acceptance of the plurality and diversity of our culture."

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"Intimacies of marriage, including the choices which individuals make on whether or not to marry and on whom to marry, lie outside the control of the state. Courts as upholders of consitutional freedoms must safeguard these freedoms," the judges ruled.

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The bench was dealing with a plea filed by the parents of minor girl from Parbhani seeking directives to the police authorities to trace their daughter, who they claimed has been kidnapped.

However, during the course of the hearing and investigations, it transpired that the girl wasn't kidnapped and infact had on her own will, left her parental house with her lover, who lived in her neighborhood.

The girl was traced to her now husband's hometown in Hyderabad and was brought to the court last week. She was accompanied by her mother and father-in-law and an eight-month old son.

The bench was informed that the girl was just nine months less to complete 18 years age when she delivered the child in September 2020. And on June 3, 2021, two days after her 18th birthday, the couple got married.

Having met their daughter in the courtroom after more than a year, her parents broke down and said they have nothing to say in the matter since their aim was to protect their daughter but now she has already become a mother and has settled.

The girl, upon being asked by the judges, clarified that she left her parental house as her parents were against her love affair.

The prosecutor in the case, however, urged the bench to exercise parens patriae principle, which allows sending such minor girls or boys, who do not wish to live with their parents to be sent to correctional homes.

However, the bench noted that this principle cannot be applied in any and every case.

"The exercise of that principle should not transgress into the area of determining the suitability of the partners to a marital tie," the judges held.

The bench noted that the father of the girl wasn't ready to accept the marriage proposal put forth by her lover. "The father in good faith was intending to protect the interest of his daughter, however, the same cannot be at the cost to curtail the fundamental rights of the daughter, who out of her own free will voluntarily got married with the lover," the bench held.

The girl was accordingly set free to take her own decisions.

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