Minimum Age for Marriage in India

Various personal legislations in India prescribe the age for marriage. In an earlier post here, we discussed the right to choice in marriage. This post discusses the relevant provisions under various laws as follows-

  1. Hindu Marriage Act,1955

Section 5 (iii)  provides that a marriage may be solemnized between any two Hindus, if the bridegroom has completed the age of twenty-one years and the bride of the age of eighteen years at the time of the marriage. Age is one of the conditions specified under the said Section.

Section 18(a) provides that  in the case of a contravention of the condition specified Section 5 (iii), every person who procures a marriage of himself or herself or to be solemnized under this Act shall be punishable with simple imprisonment which may extend to fifteen days, or with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees, or with both.

  1. The Special Marriage Act, 1954

Section 4(c) provides that a marriage between any two persons may be solemnized under this Act, if at the time of the marriage the male has completed the age of twenty-one years and the female the age of eighteen years. Age is one of the conditions specified under the said Section.

Section 18 provides that every person who procures a marriage of himself or herself or to be solemnized under this Act in the case of a contravention of the condition specified Section 5(iii) of – with simple imprisonment which may extend to fifteen days, or with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees, or with both.

  1. Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872 

Section 60 (1) provides that the age of the man intending to be married shall not be under twenty-one years, and the age of the woman intending to be married shall not be under eighteen years. Age is one of the conditions specified under the said Section.

  1.  In 2006, The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 was enacted to provide for the prohibition of solemnisation of child marriages as follows –

Section 3 provides for Child marriages to be voidable at the option of contracting party being a child –

  • Every child marriage, whether solemnised before or after the commencement of this Act, shall be voidable at the option of the contracting party who was a child at the time of the marriage. 
  • A petition for annulling a child marriage by a decree of nullity may be filed in the district court only by a contracting party to the marriage who was a child at the time of the marriage.
  • If at the time of filing a petition, the petitioner is a minor, the petition may be filed through his or her guardian or next friend along with the Child Marriage Prohibition Officer.
  • The petition under this section may be filed at any time but before the child filing the petition completes two years of attaining majority.
  • While granting a decree of nullity under this section, the district court shall make an order directing both the parties to the marriage and their parents or their guardians to return to the other party, his or her parents or guardian, as the case may be, the money, valuables, ornaments and other gifts received on the occasion of the marriage by them from the other side, or an amount equal to the value of such valuables, ornaments, other gifts and money.
  • No order under this section shall be passed unless the concerned parties have been given notices to appear before the district court and show cause why such order should not be passed.

Section 12 enlists certain circumstances when Marriage of a minor child would be void –

Where a child, being a minor-

  • is taken or enticed out of the keeping of the lawful guardian; or
  • by force compelled, or by any deceitful means induced to go from any place; or
  • is sold for the purpose of marriage; and made to go through a form of marriage or if the minor is married after which the minor is sold or trafficked or used for immoral purposes, such marriage shall be null and void.

The Act deals in detail with maintenance and residence to female contracting party to child marriage ; Custody and maintenance of children of child marriages; Legitimacy of children born of child marriages ; Court to which petition should be made ; Punishment for male adult marrying a child; Punishment for solemnising a child marriage ;Punishment for promoting or permitting solemnisation of child marriages and Child Marriage Prohibition Officers.

  1. Recent Decision of the Apex Court

In Nand Kumar vs. State of Kerala, decided on April 20,2018 , the Division Bench of the Apex Court observed as under –

We need not go into this aspect in detail. For our purposes, it is sufficient to note that both appellant No. 1 and Thushara are major. Even if they were not competent to enter into wedlock (which position itself is disputed), they have the right to live together even outside wedlock. It would not be out of place to mention that ‘live-in relationship’ is now recognized by the Legislature itself which has found its place under the provisions of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005.

Author’s Comments

The above legislative provisions under various personal laws make it clear that there is uniformity in terms of age in all of them. The minimum age to enter into marriage is 21 for males and 18 for females. After the commencement of The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006, marriage with a minor party is voidable. It further makes the child marriage void in specified circumstances.

The decision discussed above highlights the position that adults i.e. persons above the age of 18 years (male being not 21 years) cannot marry but enter into a live-in relationship.

Image from here

 

Bhumika Sharma

She is currently a Research Scholar, (PhD) at Himachal Pradesh University, Shimla. She finds peace in research and writing on a variety of social issues. She believes in the power of education and awareness to deal with various problems.

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