What happens when a girl gets married, and has a son, before she turns 18' What happens to her and the child' Should he be branded illegitimate'
Calcutta High Court, confronted with all these questions on Thursday, decided that the letter of the law was not equipped to handle them.
Instead, the spirit of the law and a mix of practical wisdom and social reality would be better to decide questions to which there were no straightforward answers.
Justice Amit Talukdar and Justice P.N. Sinha, therefore, shut out the presence of the baby boy and told his parents that the first thing they should do on August 20 — when the mother turns 18 — is sign on the dotted line in front of a marriage registrar.
Rabindranath Majhi, the girl’s father, set off the chain of events in April 2002. His 17-year-old daughter, Pramila (name changed), was missing, he told the high court, seeking police action to produce his daughter.
Majhi’s lawyers produced in court Pramila’s school-leaving certificate, issued by the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education, bearing out her father’s claims that she was not yet an adult and sought intervention for her return to their Bagnan home. The court issued a habeas corpus to the police, directing them to find out Pramila’s whereabouts.
Pramila, the court was told, was staying with her maternal uncle, Nitai Adak, in Calcutta, who had married her off to Pramod (name changed). But the marriage was a “social one”, police said, implying that no registration had been done. The court asked the police to produce Pramila, adding that her marriage had no value in the eyes of the law.
When the police visited Adak’s residence this January, they found Pramila had just become a mother and could not be taken to court. They waited till February to bring Pramila to court and narrate details of the case. The court then asked the police to produce everyone involved in the case. That meant Pramila, Pramod, their son, her uncle (Adak), and her father (Majhi).
The entire ‘family’ came to court on Thursday. In a dilemma — if the marriage was pronounced illegal, then the child would also have to be declared illegitimate — the court asked officials to calculate Pramila’s exact age.
It was found that she would turn 18 on August 20. Casting the rule books aside, the court asked the couple to solemnise its marriage on Pramila’s birthday and set things right.