The top court has today issued a notice on a petition that sought for transfer of cases praying for uniform marriage age for men and women, from High Courts to itself.
The bench headed by the Chief Justice of India issued the notice while hearing a transfer petition filed by advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay. The petitioner stated that in order to avoid multiplicity of litigations and conflicting views on the interpretation of Articles 14, 15, 21 and judgments on gender justice and gender equality, the top court should transfer petitions pending before the Delhi and Rajasthan High Courts to the apex court and decide them together.
Further, while citing that while men are permitted to marry at the age of 21 years, women are permitted to marry at 18, the petitioner highlighted that this difference in stipulated age of marriage for men and women is based on patriarchal stereotypes and has no scientific backing, perpetrates de jure and de facto inequality against women. It goes completely against the global trends, the petitioner added.
The plea also highlighted the provisions under various legislations that stipulate the age of marriage as being discriminatory which include Section 60(1) of the Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872; Section 3(1)(c) of the Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act, 1936; Section 4(c) of the Special Marriage Act, 1954; Section 5(iii) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955; Section 2(a) of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006.
Therefore, Upadhyay urged the top court to direct the Central government to take appropriate steps to remove the anomalies in the minimum age of marriage and make it ‘gender-neutral, religion-neutral and uniform for all citizens’ in a spirit of the Articles 14, 15, 21, and International Conventions and declare that minimum age of marriage shall be 21 years for all citizens.
The plea states that India signed the ‘Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women’ (CEDAW) on 30 July 1980 and ratified it in 1993 to take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in all matters relating to marriage and family relations.
Earlier in August 2019, the Delhi High Court issued notice to the Centre and the Law Commission of India on BJP leader and lawyer Ashwini Upadhyay’s plea seeking uniform marriage age for both men and women.
Further, on 5 February 2020, the Rajasthan High Court sought response from the Centre and others on a similar PIL filed by one Abdul Mannan.
The present transfer plea, filed through Ashwani Kumar Dubey, has sought an authoritative pronouncement from the top court itself to avoid multiplicity of litigation.