In a progressive judgement, Gujarat high court on Wednesday permitted a 19-year-old Hindu girl to live-in with her Muslim boyfriend, who is just 20 years old and is currently ineligible for marriage.
While allowing this reunion to take place on the wishes of the girl in a remote town of Dhanera in the border district of Banaskantha, a bench of Justice Akil Kureshi and Justice Biren Vaishnav observed, “Our society puts considerable stress on the institution of marriage and its sanctity.
Instances of live-in relationship are largely confined to metro cities and other urban centres.
Despite this, we must recognize our legal limitation in forcing an adult person of sound mind to stay at a place she does not want.
Correspondingly, we also must recognize that we do not have the power to prevent the girl who is 19 years of age and is of sound mind from exercising her choice and joining the petitioner (her boyfriend), if she so desires.”
According to the case details, the boy and girl studied together in school and were in love since their school days. Neither is ready to change his/her religion and the only option left is to have their marriage registered under the Special Marriages Act. The girl is eligible for this as she is above 18, but the boy is not because he is not yet 21.
This limitation led them to notarize a ‘maitri karaar’ (a friendship agreement used in Gujarat to formalize live-in relationships) in July.
However, the girl’s parents forcibly took her away in September. The boy, who is engaged in his family’s readymade clothes business, approached the HC by filing a habeas corpus petition that his girlfriend was detained by her parents against her wishes and that she should be set free.
When the court issued notice, Banaskantha police brought the girl before the court, where she said that she and her boyfriend would get married as soon as he turns 21. She did not want to live with her parents.
The court asked the boy to file an affidavit that he would marry the girl upon turning 21.