The Punjab and Haryana High Court, while hearing a plea filed by a couple seeking protection from their families, observed two things. The first was that the girl was a minor, for which the court asked the police to take her back to her parents, and the second was that many pleas are now landing before courts, on the basis of a perceived or imaginary threat, and not a real threat.
The court observed that a majority of such petitions contain formal symbolic averments, grounds with the imaginary cause of action, and are rarely founded upon ‘actual’ or ‘real’ existence of the threat, and these types of cases consume the considerable time of this court, that too at the cost of many other cases waiting in line for hearing.
The bench led by Justice Manoj Bajaj stated: “The society, for the last few years, has been experiencing profound changes in social values, especially amongst exuberant youngsters, who seldom in pursuit of absolute freedom, leave the company of their parents etc. to live with the person of their choice, and further in order to get the seal of the court to their alliance, they file petitions for protection by posing threat to their life and liberty. Such petitions are ordinarily based on the sole ground of apprehension of threat predicted against the disapproving parents or other close relatives of the girl only, as the decision of the couple is rarely opposed by the family members of the boy. Their right to live together is either based on their sudden, secretive and small destination marriage or upon live-in-relationship.”
In this particular case, the parents of the female petitioner (Reenu), who is just 14, were making arrangements to solemnize her marriage with a boy of their choice. The parents were adamant that they would not let her marry Daya Ram, who is 20 years old, and were allegedly trying to fix her marriage with a boy of their choice, despite the girl’s age being 14 and not old enough to get legally married.
The two eloped and decided to stay together till they were of marriageable age. Their appeal said that they received continuous threats from the parents of the girl so they reported it to the Superintendent of Police, praying for stern action against the parents. Meanwhile, Reenu’s father lodged an FIR under sections 363, 366-A, 379 and 120-B IPC registered at the Nohar police station in the Hanumangarh District of Rajasthan. The accusation in the FIR was that their girl (a minor) had been kidnapped by Daya Ram.
The two claimed before the court that they were mature enough to understand what was good and what was bad for them. They also produced various case laws supporting their contention regarding their right to life guaranteed under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.
The high court observed that the aggrieved persons can avail alternative remedy, “but a large number of petitions land in the lap of this court as according to writ petitions alternative remedy is less felicitous.”
The court reminded that the concept of a live-in relationship between two adults of the opposite gender has not been recognized in India as the legislature has injected some legitimacy in this kind of alliance, while promulgating “Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005” and liberally defined “domestic relationship” in Section 2(f). However, there are some sections of society that are reluctant to accept such kinds of relationships.
The high court further added: “Merely because the two adults are living together for a few days, their claim of a live-in-relationship based upon bald averment may not be enough to hold that they are truly in live-in relationship.”
In the view that the female is a minor girl, the Court directed Superintendent of Police, Sirsa to depute a responsible police officer to ensure that the custody of the minor girl is restored to her parents after coordinating with Rajasthan police.
Before parting, the court deems it appropriate to observe that despite their being penal provisions in place through the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006, child marriages are taking place in violation of the provisions of the said Act. Therefore, the court declined the request of seeking protection and dismissed the writ petition while stating “this court feels it necessary to remind the states to consider this important issue to eradicate the menace of child marriage.”