Tribune News Service
New Delhi, February 2
The Supreme Court on Tuesday issued a notice to the Centre on a PIL seeking transfer of petitions demanding uniform minimum age of marriage for men and women, pending in the high courts of Delhi and Rajasthan to the top court to avoid multiplicity of litigation and conflicting views.
A Bench headed by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde asked the Centre to respond to Delhi BJP leader Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay’s petition after senior advocate Geeta Luthra submitted that the top court needed to give an authoritative pronouncement on the contentious issue.
Once transferred, the petitions were likely to be clubbed with other two PILs filed by Upadhyay on the issues of uniform grounds of divorce, maintenance, alimony; and adoption and guardianship.
Currently, the minimum age for marriage prescribed under Section 5(iii) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, Section 4© of the Special Marriage Act, 1954, section 60 of the Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872 and Section 3© of the Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act, 1936 is 18 years for women and 21 years for men. The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act has similar provisions.
Pointing out that more than 125 countries have a uniform age of marriage for men and women and the National Human Rights Commission—pursuant to the 2018 National Conference on Child Marriage—had also recommended a uniform marriage age for both men and women, Upadhyay urged the top court to declare 21 years to be the minimum age for marriage in India.
“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,” Upadhyay submitted.
The differential bar discriminated against women and contravened the fundamental principles of gender equality, gender justice and dignity of women and offended Articles 14, 15 and 21 (right to equality, right to non-discrimination and right to life and liberty) of the Constitution and international conventions, he said.
Contending that a uniform minimum age of marriage for both men and women’ was necessary to “secure gender justice, gender equality and dignity of women”, Upadhyay said he wanted the top court to give an authoritative pronouncement in order to “avoid multiplicity of litigations and conflicting views”.
In August 2019, the Delhi High Court had issued notice to the Centre and the Law Commission on his petition demanding uniform marriage age for men and women.
Last year, the Rajasthan High Court had asked the Centre and some other parties to respond to a similar PIL filed by one Abdul Mannan.
Upadhyay urged the top court to direct the Centre 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 fundamental rights of equality and right to life and International conventions.