The Supreme Court on Wednesday reserved its verdict on a plea challenging the provision of the Indian Penal Code that exempts a person from being charged with rape for having sex with his wife in child marriage — even if she is below the age of 18 years but above 15 years.
The bench of Justice Madan B. Lokur and Justice Deepak Gupta reserved the order as the central government told the court that despite the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act 2006, by and large the child marriage was an “inescapable factum” in the Indian society, though the practice was on the wane.
Despite the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006, being implemented with full force, senior counsel Rana Mukherjee told the court that the government had tried to strike a balance between the law prohibiting child marriage and the social reality of the prevailing practice.
Appearing for the Centre, Mukherjee told the court that even though the marriage between the age of 15 and 18 years is deprecated, it would not fall foul of Sections 375 and 376 that carved out exemption, leaving out the husband of a minor wife from being charged with rape.
As the senior counsel urged the court to leave it to Parliament as to when and how the legal sanctity of child marriages would go, the court wondered when that time would come and added that more than 70 years have passed since India became independent.
The petitioner NGO Independent Thought has described the exception under Section 375 of the IPC as being discriminatory and violative of Article 14 of the Constitution that guarantees equality before law.
The NGO has contended that the said exception was also not in consonance with other statues, including the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012.