Prohibition of Child Marriage Act does not differentiate on basis of religion: Punjab & Haryana High Court

Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 does not differentiate on the basis of religion as regards commission of any offences punishable under the Act, the Punjab & Haryana High Court recently held .
Thus, even though as per the Muslim Personal law, a valid marriage can be contracted between the parties upon attaining the age of puberty, there is no such special treatment afforded by the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act.
However, as per the judgment of the Supreme Court in Hardev Singh vs. Harpreet Kaur [2020 (1) RCR (Criminal)], if a girl/woman is above marriageable age in terms of that Act (above 18 years), no offence punishable under the provisions of that Act would be made out, the Court clarified.
It, therefore, ordered that protection be provided to an inter-faith couple, the girl being above the marriageable age of 18 as per the Act though the boy was below the marriageable age.
One of the petitioners Azim Khan, was admittedly below the legally marriageable age in terms of the Act of 2006.
The petitioners stated that neither were they in any prohibited relationship to each other, nor were either of them married earlier.
Consequently, since protection of life and liberty is a fundamental right of every citizen under Article 21 of the Constitution of India, Justice Amol Rattan Singh directed the Senior Superintendent of Police, Fatehgarh Sahib and the Station House Officer Police Station Mandi Gobindgarh, District Fatehgarh Sahib, to ensure that the lives and liberty of the petitioners are not put to any harm or threat at the hands of their family.
However, the Court added that if upon verification of the certificates, the age of petitioner Jaspreet is found to be actually below 18 years of age, this order would not prohibit proceedings under the provisions of the Act.
Further, it was made clear that if any of the averments made in the petition are found to be incorrect, specifically with regard to either the petitioners being in any prohibited relationship to each other, or as regards their previous marital status, the shall not be construed to be a bar on proceedings initiated as per law.
HC relied upon the Supreme Court judgment in Hardev Singh versus Harpreet Kaur case, in which it was held that if a girl/woman is above marriageable age in terms of that Act (above 18 years), no offence punishable under the provisions of that Act would be made out.
HC observed that since protection of life and liberty is a fundamental right of every citizen under Article 21 of the Constitution, this petition is disposed of with a direction to the SSP Fatehgarh Sahib to ensure that the lives and liberty of the petitioners are not put to any harm or threat at the hands of their families. The HC also made it clear that if upon verification, the age of girl is found to be actually below 18, this order shall not prohibit the authorities to initiate proceedings under the provisions of the Prohibition of Child Marriages Act of 2006

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