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MUMBAI: The Bombay high court is likely to decide an important aspect related to marriage of minors.
The court will decide if the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, which bans marriage of minors, can be extended to include an attempt to get a child married as an offence.
The issue came up before the HC which was hearing a petition filed by Zakia Begum —mother of a minor Muslim girl—seeking quashing of the FIR filed against her in December 2009 for violating the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act. Representing the central government, additional solicitor general Darius Khambata argued that in Zakia Begum's case, since the marriage was not solemnized, the FIR stands invalidated.
"Under the Act, only solemnization of marriage is an offence . Attempt (to marriage) is not (an offence)," Khambata told the court. He also brought Section 11 of the Act to the notice of the court and argued that "while it expressly prohibits promotion of child marriage , it applies only if the marriage actually takes place."
Hearing the arguments, Justice A M Khanwilkar remarked : "If we accept your argument , then the FIR has to be quashed."
Senior counsel Yusuf Muchala , representing the All India Muslim Personal Law Board—the interveners in the petition—argued that they were not questioning the validity of the Act itself but felt that Zakia Begum was treated unfairly by the police and the child welfare committee. Petitioner's advocate Prakash Wagh argued that police action was against the fundamental right to freely profess, practice and propagate religion, guaranteed by the Constitution in Article 25.
An FIR was lodged against Zakia Begum after she scheduled her daughter's marriage to a Ghatkopar resident but, just a few hours before the marriage could be solemnized, Ghatkopar cops reached their Aurangabad home and took the bride into custody. They were booked for violating provisions of the Child Marriage Restraint Act. The court will hear further arguments on Friday.