SC asks UP to produce ‘minor’ Muslim girl whose marriage was declared void by HC

Indiatimesworld News Service
New Delhi, September 23

Acting on a ‘minor’ girl’s petition challenging an Allahabad High Court’s order declaring her marriage void and illegal, the Supreme Court on Monday asked the Uttar Pradesh government to produce her on October 1.

A three-judge Bench headed by Justice NV Ramana also directed the 16-year-old girl’s father and her husband to remain present before it on the next date of hearing.

It asked the state government to take proper care of the girl kept at a children’s home in Lucknow after the Allahabad High Court declared her marriage void. The Bench wanted to know why she was initially kept in a ‘nari niketan’.

The top court directed its Registry to request a doctor, preferably a female psychiatrist, from All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, to remain present on the next date of hearing to interact with the girl.

The girl has challenged the High Court’s verdict on the ground that the High Court did not consider Muslim Law while declaring her marriage void.

As directed by the court last week, the state’s Home Secretary appeared before it. The court pulled him up for not instructing its lawyers on her appeal.

“Uttar Pradesh does not have lawyers to defend them? No instructions are given to the lawyers who appear in the matter. Is this the way you behave?” the Bench, which also included Justice Sanjiv Khanna and Justice Krishna Murari, asked the UP Home Secretary.

As the Home Secretary expressed regret, the Bench asked him to ensure that counsel were properly instructed and counter affidavit on behalf of the state filed.

“It is a serious matter where a girl has been kept in a juvenile home and you do not assist us. The girl is in a ‘nari niketan’. How can she be kept in a ‘nari niketan?” it asked.

On behalf of Uttar Pradesh government, senior counsel Aishwarya Bhati said the girl had already been shifted to a children’s home in Lucknow.

The girl’s father had complained to the police that his daughter had been kidnapped by a man. But in her statement before a magistrate, the girl said she had married the man out of her free will and wanted to live with him.

The court sought the presence of the girl, her husband and her father after her counsel said she was 16 and had married out of her own volition.

Her counsel said under the Muslim law, once a female attains the age of puberty, i.e. 15 years; she is independent to take decisions for her life and is competent to marry any one of her own choice.