Section 2(a) of The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 defines ‘child’ as a person who, if a male, has not completed twenty-one years of age, and if a female, has not completed eighteen years of age. A ‘child marriage’ means a marriage to which either of the contracting parties is a child.
Hardev Singh and Harpreet Kaur married on 17.4.2010; Harpreet had completed eighteen years of age – Hardev was below eighteen years of age. Even if it is assumed Hardev was above eighteen, he had not completed twenty-one years of age.
The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006.
Section 9 – Punishment for male adult marrying a child
Whoever, being a male adult above eighteen years of age, contracts a child marriage shall be punishable with rigorous imprisonment which may extend to two years or with fine which may extend to one lakh rupees or with both.
“Section 9 does not apply to the facts and circumstances. A literal interpretation of the above provision would mean that if a male aged between the years of eighteen and twenty-one contracts marriage with a female above eighteen years of age, the female adult would not be punished, but it is the male who would be punished for contracting a child marriage, though he himself is a child. We are of the view that such an interpretation goes against the object of the Act; the Act does not make any provision for punishing a female adult who marries a male child.
It is well settled that where any ambiguity exists with regard to the interpretation of a legislative provision, the marginal note can be used in aid of construction, having regard to the object of the legislation and the mischief it seeks to remedy. In view of the above, the words “male adult above eighteen years of age, contracts a child marriage” should be read as “male adult above eighteen years of age marries a child”.
– Hon’ble Justice Mohan M. Shantanagoudar, Hardev Singh v. Harpreet Kaur, [Criminal Appeal No. 1331 of 2013].