The marriage of a 56-year-old advocate with a minor girl was ruled valid by the Bombay High Court, after she expressed her willingness to live with him on turning 18.
A division bench of justices Ranjit More and Bharati Dangre heard the petition filed by the defendant, seeking to quash a rape case lodged against him for marrying a 14-year-old girl in 2014.
The complainant, now 18 years old, said in her complaint that she was forced into marriage at the age of 14 – to the then 52-year-old advocate – by her grandparents.
The advocate was subsequently in judicial custody for around 10 months and later released on bail.
The girl turned 18 on 17 September 2018, after which the advocate moved HC, seeking the case be quashed.
The woman filed an affidavit in the HC last week, saying she would like to cohabit with her husband and has no qualms over the case being quashed.
Additional public prosecutor Aruna Kamat Pai opposed the petition, saying quashing such a case would set a bad precedent and send a wrong signal to the public at large.
The bench, in its order on 2 May, however, noted that it was concerned about the woman's welfare.
"“Undisputedly she was a minor at the time of her marriage with the accused but now she has become a major and has expressed her willingness to cohabit with the accused person.”" - Bombay HC Order
"Since the complainant is ready to cohabit with the petitioner (advocate) as his legally wedded wife, the marriage, which otherwise is voidable, becomes valid," the court said.
"We are also of the opinion that ultimately the complainant (woman) will suffer if the subject case is allowed to go on as she is now married and no one in the society would accept her as wife, and we think that at this stage securing her future is of prime importance," it said.
The bench directed the woman's husband to transfer 10 acres land in her name, open a fixed deposit (FD) account with Rs 7 lakh for her and ensure that she finishes her education.
The bench directed the police not to take any steps towards probing in the case.
The court adjourned the case to September, when it will see if the order has been complied with, and decide whether to quash the case.
The woman's husband was arrested by the city police in December 2017 for rape and other offences under the Indian Penal Code and provisions of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act and the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act.
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