Read Order: Ravneet Kaur and another Versus State of Punjab and others

LE Staff

Chandigarh, September 6, 2021: The Punjab and Haryana High Court has recently directed the concerned District/Subordinate Courts to ensure that minor girls in need of care and protection are not sent to Nari Niketan/Special Home/Observation Home meant for juveniles in conflict with law and are sent to proper Child Care Institutions with proper budgetary and infrastructural facilities.

This direction has come pursuant to a petition ,filed by the petitioners, a minor girl of 15 years and her paramour, a man of 19 years, who are in a relationship, under Article 226/227 of the Constitution for issuance of directions to the police officials and the state to protect their life and liberty from danger at the hands of parents and paternal uncles of the girl.

The petitioner’s counsel had submitted that the petitioners were living in live-in-relationship on account of love affair between them. The petitioners wanted to marry each other but the marriage could not be performed as the girl, first petitioner, had not attained the age of majority.

The petitioners apprehend physical harm to them and false implication of the man, second petitioner, at the instance of respondents (parents and paternal uncles of the girl). The petitioners made representation to the second respondent, Commissioner of Police, Amritsar but no action had been taken on the same.

It was accordingly pleaded that the girl may be allowed to go with the man and the police officials be directed to take appropriate action for protection of life and liberty of the petitioners.

The Court was of the opinion that Section 2(14)(xii) of the Juvenile Justice Act defines a child “who is at imminent risk of marriage before attaining the age of marriage and whose parents, family members, guardian and any other persons are likely to be responsible for solemnization of such marriage” as a child in need of care and protection.

A girl child below 18 years of age who is sought to be married by her parents/guardian being a child in need of care and protection is required to be produced before a Child Welfare Committee constituted under Section 27 of the JJ Act so that she could be cared for, protected and appropriately rehabilitated or restored to society, noted the Bench of Justice Arun Kumar Tyagi.

The Bench also added that it is now well settled that girl child in need of care and protection under Section 2 (14) (xii) of the JJ Act cannot be kept in a Nari Niketan/Special/Observation Home meant for juveniles in conflict with law established under the JJ Act.

After referring to appropriate statutory provisions and judicial precedents the Court affirmed that the fundamental right to protection of life and liberty does not extend to protection of the minor girl for residing with her husband or a person of her choice in live-in-relationship in the nature of marriage and her life and liberty have to be protected by sending her to Child Care Institution under the orders/supervision of the Child Welfare Committee or to her parents, if so consented to by her or to her parents-in-law or some other relative on such terms and conditions as considered appropriate by the Court.

While partly allowing the petition, the Court ordered that the minor girl be kept in Ashiana, Sector-15, Chandigarh till attaining of majority by her but her custody may be entrusted to her father or some other relative, if so consented to by her.

The Bench has directed the States of Punjab and Haryana and U.T. Chandigarh to identify/notify Child Care Institutions already identified in each district or group of district as may be viable and provide them requisite financial assistance as may be required and to closely monitor/supervise their working so as to ensure that minor girls in need of care and protection are not subjected to any miseries or exploitation.

The State Legal Services Authorities, Punjab, Haryana and U.T. Chandigarh have also been directed to prepare a scheme/widen the scope of scheme if already prepared for providing requisite assistance including legal aid to such minor girls in need of care and protection for redressal of their grievances and also such financial help as may be required.

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