On attaining puberty, Muslim girl can marry anyone: Why legal system needs a reality check

WION Web Team
NEW DELHI Published: Feb 11, 2021, 11:36 PM(IST)

Representative Image.  Photograph:( ANI )

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The Muslim personal law says maturity and puberty are one and the same. So if a person has attained puberty — they are free to marry.

The Punjab and Haryana High Court has held that a Muslim girl who is less than 18 years old but has attained puberty is free to marry anyone as per the Muslim Personal Law.

A bench of Justice Alka Sarin gave the verdict relying on various court rulings and the article 195 in 'Principles of Mohammedan Law', an authoritative textbook by prominent Muslim personal law jurist Sir Dinshah Fardunji Mulla.

Quoting provisions of article 195 in Mulla's authoritative treatise on Muslim personal laws, the bench observed that a Muslim girl on attaining the age of puberty was competent to enter into a contract of marriage with a person of her choice.

Article 195 in the book explains the capacity (eligibility) for marriage under the Muslim Personal Law, the bench pointed out, adding that as per this provision, every Mohammedan (Muslim) of sound mind, who has attained puberty, may enter into a contract of marriage.

According to law the minimum age for marriage — is 18 years for girls and 21 for boys. This is laid down in two separate acts of the Indian parliament.

One, the special marriage act of 1954.

Second and the prohibition of child marriage act of 2006.

How then did the court recognise this marriage of a 17 year old?

Because it gave primacy to personal laws, the Muslim personal law says maturity and puberty are one and the same. So if a person has attained puberty — they are free to marry.

This puts the age of marriage at around 15 years. It's as if the last 150 years of social reforms never happened.

This is not an argument against personal laws in India. Though it's high time the country had a uniform civil code. But that's for the Parliament and the people of India to decide together.

But when courts uphold personal laws — at the expense of children's rights — questions must be asked.

Are the laws in tune with modern times? Are the Court's interpreting them with a progressive mindset? Most of the laws that we live by were framed decades back.

Times have changed, what was considered normal in the past -- is probably a crime today.

So the laws must keep up. Which means the lawmakers must keep up. Unfortunately -- in most cases -- they don't.

(With inputs from agencies)

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