The Supreme Court on Tuesday issued notice on a transfer petition seeking transfer of all pending petitions before different high courts seeking uniform minimum age of marriage for men and women.
A three-judge bench of Chief Justice S.A. Bobde, Justice A.S. Bopanna and Justice V. Ramasubramanian issued notice on the transfer petition filed by advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay.
The petitioner submitted that in order to avoid multiplicity of litigation and conflicting views on interpretation of Articles 14, 15, 21 and judgments on gender justice and gender equality, the court may transfer PILs pending before the Delhi High Court and the Rajasthan High Court and decide them collectively.
Pointing out the difference in the minimum age of marriage for men and women, the petitioner has submitted,
“While men are permitted to get married at the age of 21, women are married when they are just 18. The distinction is based on patriarchal stereotypes, has no scientific backing, perpetrates de jure and de facto inequality against women, and goes completely against the global trends.”
The petition further stated that the following acts contravene the fundamental principles of gender equality, gender justice and dignity of women and offend Articles 14, 15, 21 of the Constitution and international conventions. These are:
· Section 60(1) of the Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872;
· Section 3(1)(c) of the Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act, 1936;
· Section 4(c) of the Special Marriage Act, 1954;
· Section 5(iii) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955;
· Section 2(a) of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006.
The petitioner has further brought to the court’s notice that India signed the ‘Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women’ (CEDAW) on July 30, 1980 and ratified it in 1993 to take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in all matters relating to marriage and family relations.
The petitioner has further referred to the Law Commission’s 205th report where it has been observed that there exists no scientific basis for such a distinction. It has further been submitted that the Commission in its Consultation Paper on Reform of Family Law has stated that the differential ages for marriage “simply contributes to the stereotype that wives must be younger than their husbands.”
The petitioner has also urged the court to direct the Central Government to take appropriate steps to remove the anomalies in the minimum age of marriage and make it ‘gender neutral, religion neutral and uniform for all citizens’ in spirit of the Articles 14, 15, 21 and International Conventions and declare that minimum age of marriage shall be 21 years for all citizens.