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SC pulls up UP home secretary for not replying to minor Muslim girl's petition

The 16-year-old girl moved the apex court after her marriage under Mohammedan Law was annulled by Allahabad High Court

By PTI in New Delhi
  • Published 23.09.19, 7:35 PM
  • Updated 23.09.19, 7:35 PM
  • 3 mins read
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The bench also questioned why the minor girl was kept in a women's shelter home iStock

The Supreme Court on Monday directed the Uttar Pradesh government to produce before it the 16-year-old Muslim girl, who is presently being kept at a children's home in Lucknow after her marriage was declared void by the Allahabad High Court, and also pulled up the state for not instructing its lawyers on her appeal.

The top court, which also directed the father and the 'husband' of the girl to remain present before it on October 1, asked the state government to properly take care of the girl, who had moved the apex court on the grounds that the high court did not consider the Mohammedan Law while annulling her marriage.

A bench headed by justice N. V. Ramana came down heavily on the state government for its failure to either file response earlier on the petition or properly instruct its lawyers and questioned why she was initially kept in a 'nari niketan' (women's shelter home).

"Uttar Pradesh do not have lawyers to defend them? No instructions are given to the lawyers who appear in the matter. Is this the way you behave?," the bench, which also comprised justices Sanjiv Khanna and Krishna Murari, said after the home secretary of Uttar Pradesh appeared before it.

"It is a serious matter where a girl has been kept in a juvenile home and you do not assist us," the bench said, adding, "The girl is in a 'nari niketan'."

"How can she be kept in a 'nari niketan'?" the bench asked. 

Senior advocate Aishwarya Bhati, appearing for Uttar Pradesh, informed the bench that the girl has now been shifted to a children's home in Lucknow.

"That is because we have interfered," the bench said.

The girl's father had lodged a police complaint alleging that his daughter had been kidnapped by a man. Thereafter, the girl recorded her statement before a magistrate in which she said that she had married the man out of her free will and wanted to stay with him.

Advocate Dushyant Parashar, appearing for the girl, told the bench on Monday that she is a 16-year-old and had married on her free will.

Referring to Mohammedan Law, Parashar said once a female attains the age of puberty, that is 15 years, she is independent to take decisions for her life and is competent to marry any one of her own choice.

To this, the bench said, "We will order for appearance of the girl. Let her come."

The top court said it would also ask a doctor, preferably psychiatrist, to interact with the girl.

"We will also ask her husband to appear before us," the bench said.

Bhati told the bench that they would also produce her father before the court on the next date of hearing on October 1.

At the end of hearing, the bench told state home secretary to ensure that lawyers appearing in any matter before the court should be properly instructed.

While orally asking the home secretary to file an undertaking in this regard, the bench noted in its order that it was forced to direct him to appear before the court due to the "non-responsive attitude" of the state.

It said the home secretary has "expressed regret" and assured the bench that the counsel would be properly instructed and counter affidavit on behalf of the state would be filed.

The apex court also asked its registry to request for appearance of a doctor, preferably a female psychiatrist, from All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, on the next date of hearing.

The apex court had last week summoned the home secretary of Uttar Pradesh while taking a serious view of the state government's failure to respond to a plea by the girl, who has challenged the high court's order by which her marriage was found to be void.

The top court had earlier agreed to examine the plea of the girl who has been ordered to stay in a shelter home for women in Uttar Pradesh after her marriage was found to be void.

The girl has challenged the high court's July order, which dismissed her petition against a trial court directive sending her to a shelter home at Ayodhya.

The high court had observed that since she was a "minor," her case would be dealt with in accordance with the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act, 2015, and as she did not want to join her parents, the order sending her to the shelter home was correct.

The girl has told the apex court that high court failed to appreciate the fact that her 'nikah' (marriage) is in accordance with the Mohammedan Law.

The plea, which said that her right to life and liberty may be protected, contended that she was in love with a man and they performed the 'nikah' in accordance with the Mohammedan Law in June this year.

The trial court had directed that she be sent to the child welfare committee for safe custody and protection until she attains the age of 18.

In her plea, she has said that she should be freed from the shelter home during the pendency of the appeal before the top court.