New Delhi: The girl was 19. The boy had yet not turned 21. But they still got married.
Solving the legal conundrum that arose due to the boy not being of marriageable age, the Supreme Court has reunited the couple by treating them as "live-in" partners.
A bench of Justices AK Sikri and Ashok Bhushan set aside the Kerala High Court order, which had quashed the couple’s marriage last year on the grounds that the boy was less than 21-years-old and hence could not be married.
The top court, however, came to their rescue. "It is sufficient to note that both of them are major. Even if they were not competent to enter into wedlock, they have right to live together even outside wedlock," held the bench.
The judges highlighted that the two had a right to live with each other, more so in view of the fact that ‘live-in relationship’ is now recognized by the legislature under the provisions of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act.
The bench further found fault with the approach of the High Court in entrusting custody of the girl to her father after declaring her marriage to be bad in law.
It maintained that once the girl was found to be above 18, there was no question of entrusting her custody to anyone and that she has the right to live wherever she wants to or move as per her choice.
The Court also pointed out that since both the girl and boy are Hindu, their marriage can be considered as a voidable marriage under the law, and until the boy turns 21, they can have a 'live-in' relationship if they so desire.
The bench also cited the apex court's recent judgment in the 'Kerala Love Jihad' case to emphasise that adult individuals have an absolute right to make choices in life and that the court cannot assume the role of a super-guardian.
The Court disposed of the appeal, moved by the boy against the HC order, by making it clear that the "freedom of choice would be of the girl as to with whom she wants to live".