Court In India Clashes With Muslims Over Child Marriage Legislation

| by Dominic Kelly

After a high court ruling on Thursday that said the government cannot allow the marrying of children in the name of religion, a public-interest litigation was filed, saying that officials cannot stop marriages performed under Muslim law, even if they involve children, and a recent specific case was brought up for a decision.

According to reports, the decision by Justice C.T. Selvam was a "landmark ruling" and made history when Selvam denied the marriage of a 15-year-old Muslim girl.

"This court cannot, and would not, pass an order by virtue of which little girls become child brides," Selvam said. "When there is a legislative ban on child marriages, the courts cannot go out of their way to help the promoters of child marriages."

The following day, however, Muslim leader M. Mohamed Abbas filed a PIL in the Madurai court against government officials for stopping the marriage of a 16-year-old girl.

"Though officials said they were forced to take custody of the girl and hand her over to the district child welfare committee, the PIL said the action of social welfare officials had offended the basic tenets of Islam," The Times of India reported. "The department prevented a lawful marriage under Mohammedan Law, and confined the Muslim bride in a home, the petitioner said. He said officials did not produce the girl before the judicial magistrate concerned, and the parents were prevented from seeing the girl. Noting that the petition had been filed for the overall welfare of the Islam community, the petitioner sought the court's direction to the government to handover the girl to her parents, and award 10 lakh compensation to the family."

Ultimately, officials decided that the teenage girl has to appear in court on Monday, and, overall, the case proves that there is much divide between the legality of child marriages and their longstanding religious significance. Whether or not child marriage under Muslim law will be legal going forward remains to be seen.

Sources: The Times of India, Pamela Geller / Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons