A division bench of the Punjab and Haryana High Court has ruled that a marriage contracted with a minor girl would be legally valid if the child upon turning 18 does not declare it void. The high court held that such a marriage is not void but a voidable one.

It would become valid if no steps are taken by the ‘child’ to declare the marriage void on attaining majority, the high court ruled.

It was a case of a couple who got married in February 2009 and approached the high court challenging the judgment of a Ludhiana family court. The couple had moved the Ludhiana court for divorce by mutual consent.

The Ludhiana court had rejected their divorce plea on the grounds that their marriage was not a valid marriage as the wife was under-18 when the marriage was solemnised in 2009.

The high court bench of Justices Ritu Bahri and Arun Monga held that the Ludhiana court had wrongly dismissed the petition since the wife in the case had attained the age of 18 in 2010 and the couple continued to live together till August 2017.

“In the facts of the present case, the respondent-wife was of the age of 17 years, 6 months and 8 days at the time of marriage and she could file a petition for declaration of this marriage as void before she attains the age of 18 as per Section 11 of Hindu Marriage Act, 1955,” the high court said.

“Both the parties continued to live together and cohabited as husband and wife since 2009 till 2017 and the respondent-wife had not chosen to file a petition for getting her marriage void. Hence, for all intents and purposes, when they made a petition under Section 13-B of Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, the respondent-wife was major and the marriage was valid,” the high court stated.

The Punjab and Haryana High Court relied on a similar 2012-judgment of the Delhi High Court, where a girl had married a boy she had eloped with. While hearing the matter, the Delhi High Court had ruled that a marriage contracted with a bride of less than 18 years or a bridegroom of less than 21 years would not be a void marriage but a voidable one, which would become valid if no steps were taken to declare the marriage void.

The Punjab and Haryana High Court accordingly held that the petition moved by the couple for divorce by mutual consent should have been allowed on the grounds that for all intents and purposes, their marriage was valid. The bench went on to grant divorce to the parties.

Child marriage valid if ‘child’ doesn’t declare it void at 18: Punjab and Haryana HC