|Case||Pinninti Venkataramana & Anr. v. State of Andhra Pradesh, AIR 1977 AP 43|
|Court||Before Andhra Pradesh High Court|
|Bench||B Divan, C.J., A Kuppuswami, Muktadar, JJ.|
|Author of the judgment||B Divan, J.|
|Relevant Laws||Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, Indian Penal Code, 1860, Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929.|
|Abstract||In the present case, the court held that child marriages are not void or voidable. They are completely valid. Hindu Marriage Act prescribes for only some kind of punishment for such marriages.|
|Author of the brief||Darshan Patankar, Student at Gujarat National Law University.|
|Keywords||Hindu Marriage Act, Child Marriage, Indian Penal Code,|
(1) In the present case, the full bench of the Andhra Pradesh High Court was constituted to decide the following question of law: –
(a) “Whether a Hindu Marriage governed by the provisions of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 (hereinafter referred to as “the Act”) to which the parties are below the ages set out in Section 5(iii) of the Act i.e. where the bridegroom is below the age of twenty-one years and the bride is below the age of eighteen years at the time of marriage, is void ab initio and no marriage in the eyes of law”?
(2) In Criminal Revision Case No. 190 of 1975, the petitioners were convicted by the Judicial Magistrate First Class, Rajam under Sections 494 read with Section 109 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). They filed appeals and the appellate court confirmed their convictions, however, the appellate court modified their sentences to the payment of Rs.200 and in default of payment of the fine, the petitioners were sentenced to undergo rigorous imprisonment for one month. Aggrieved by the convictions, the petitioners filed a revision application before the High Court. The application was heard by Muktadar, J. and here, the petitioners placed reliance on the division bench judgment of the Andhra Pradesh High Court in P.A. Saramma v. G. Ganapatulu where it was held that a marriage where the parties are below the age set out in Section 5(iii) of the Act is void ab initio and no marriage in eyes of law. However, it was felt that the decision in Saramma was incorrect, and therefore the matter was referred to a division bench. The division Bench by an order dated 22.03.1976 referred the matter to the present full bench.
(3) In Criminal Miscellaneous Petition No. 809 of 1976, the Petitioner No. 1 was the husband in the case originally filed by the Respondent No.1 wife. The wife had filed a criminal complaint in the Court of Judicial Magistrate First Class, Siddipet against her husband and ten others alleging that her husband had committed an offence under Section 494 IPC for two marriages and the others had committed an offence under Section 494 read with Section 109 IPC. However, the petitioner- husband contended that since he was 13 years old at the time of marriage with the respondent-wife who was 9 years old then, the marriage was void ab initio and no marriage in the eyes of law by relying upon the decision in P.A. Saramma v. G. Ganapatulu. Therefore, it was contended that the petitioner could not be convicted of an offence under Section 494 IPC and prayed that the prosecution is quashed. Since the question involved here was similar to the one in the revision application, this petition was posted to be heard along with the revision application.
Petitioners Contentions: –
The Petitioners contended that the decision in P.A. Saramma was correct and since child marriages were void ab initio and not recognized in the eyes of law, their convictions and prosecutions under Section 494 IPC for two marriages were liable to be set aside.
Respondents Contention: –
The Respondents raised doubts about the correctness of the decision in P.A.Saramma and contended that the decision was contrary to the provisions of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. They contended that the conviction of the petitioners was under Section 494 IPC was justified.
Decision of the Court: – Authored by B. Divan, C.J.
(1) The Court held that the decision in P.A. Saramma v. G. Ganapatulu did not lay down the correct law and that any marriage solemnized in contravention of Section 5(iii) of the Act is neither void nor voidable, however, the only consequence would be that the parties would be liable for punishment under Section 18 of the Act which prescribed simple imprisonment which could extend to fifteen days or fine which could extend to one thousand rupees or both.
(2) The Court held that the matter in Criminal Revision Case No.190 of 1975 would go back to the single judge for decision according to the law in this case.
(3) In Criminal Miscellaneous Petition No. 809 of 1976, the petitioners had prayed for quashing of prosecution. However, the court refused to grant such relief and dismissed the petition.
(4) The Court also held that if the requirements of Section 13 (2) (iv) of the Act i.e. if the marriage of was solemnised before the bride attained the age of fifteen years and if she repudiated the marriage before attaining the age of eighteen years, the wife could present a petition for the dissolution of her marriage by a decree of divorce.
(5) The Court referred to Section 11 of the Act which provided that a marriage solemnized in contravention of Sections 5 (i), (iv) and (v) of the Act would be void ab initio, however, Section 11 did not include Section 5 (iii) of the Act. The Court referred to the intention of the legislature which only included clauses (i), (iv) and (v) but did not include clause (iii) of Section 5 and therefore a marriage in contravention of the age set out in Section 5 (iii) could not be regarded as void ab initio and to buttress this, the Court referred to the decision in Mst. Premi v. Daya Ram (1964).
(6) The Court also referred to Section 12 of the Act which provided that a marriage solemnised in contravention of Section 5 (ii) of the Act would be voidable, Section 12 did not again include Section 5 (iii) and therefore a marriage solemnised in contravention of Section 5 (iii) of the Act could not be regarded as voidable.
(7) The Court also looked at the position prior to the commencement of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. Prior to the Act, Child Marriages were governed by the Child Marriage Restraint Act of 1929 where the parties responsible for solemnisation of marriage in contravention to the 1929 Act could be held liable for punishment, however, the marriage was not itself rendered void.
(8) The Court held that Section 5 (iii) could not be regarded as a condition precedent for solemnisation, the violation of which would render such marriage void ab initio since had the Legislature intended such an effect, the Legislature would have explicitly provided for the same.
(9) The Court referred to the decision of the Punjab and Haryana High Court in Mohinder Kaur v. Major Singh (1971) in which the court had observed that a marriage in contravention of Clause (iii) of Section 5 did not affect the marriage itself and the marriage was neither void nor voidable. The Court also referred to the decision in Mt.Kalawati v. Devi Ram (1960) where it was held that the minority of the wife is by itself, not a ground for getting the marriage declared null and void under Section 11 of the Act or for its annulment under Section12.
(10) Since the settled position of law with regard to child marriages by a violation of Section 5(iii) of the Act was clear, the Court overruled the decision in P.A. Saramma v. G. Ganapatulu.
Ratio: – Child Marriages which are solemnized in contravention to Section 5 (iii) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 are neither void ab initio nor voidable, however, the parties to the marriage are liable to punishment under Section 18 of the Act.