He couldn’t legally marry because he was only 20 years old. Even so, he was ordered to pay child support to a girl for an “adopted” marriage.
The bizarre situation left Supreme Court judges in a dilemma on Friday and they decided to dig deeper to solve the legal mystery.
A Supreme Court bank, headed by SA Bobde, Chief Justice of India (CJI), was amused when attorney Rachitta Priyanka Rai revealed the facts of her case.
Rai’s client was 20 years old when he and an 18-year-old woman fled the same village in the East Singhbhum district of Jharkhand in March 2006.
The couple went to Jamshedpur, where they lived together for about a week. When they returned to their village, the Panchayat tried to marry her, but a riot broke out and the wedding never took place.
The woman then filed two cases against the man – one for cruelty and one for alimony, as their residential relationship had to be treated as a marriage-like relationship.
The court sentenced the man to one year in prison on charges of cruelty, according to the petition filed by Lexolve Partners. He was also sentenced to pay £Every month 5,000 to the woman as maintenance.
When the man appealed these orders, the Jharkhand Supreme Court dropped the criminal case and found that Section 498A of the Indian Criminal Code had not established the indictment of cruelty because they had never married. However, the maintenance payment was confirmed.
On Friday, Rai began their arguments in front of the bank, which included Judges AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian, highlighting the legal mystery that had emerged due to the alimony ordinance. She referred to her client’s certificate of education to show that he was only 20 years old at the time of that relationship.
“The law is clear that a man’s legal age at marriage is 21 years. If a man cannot enter into a valid marriage due to the legal age prohibition, how can a relationship be treated as an ‘adopted’ marriage if the man is under 21? How can my client be asked to pay child support when he was under the age of majority in order to get married? ” she asked.
The lawyer added that the Supreme Court also wrongly treated this as a “domestic” relationship while the couple fled the village, hid in various locations in Jamshedpur and lived together for only a week.
“Staying together for just a week can’t be good enough to consider this an appropriate relationship, let alone treat it as a ‘domestic’ relationship under the law,” Rai said.
At first, the bank believed that Rai’s client should pay at least half of the amount ordered as maintenance, but the attorney convinced the judges that the Supreme Court order was wrong on several counts.
Rai’s conviction led the court to uphold the alimony order while the CJI added, “You may succeed in your case at some point.”
Former Associate Attorney General Pinky Anand and senior attorney told HT: “The Supreme Court appears to have made a gross mistake in allowing maintenance on this case. It was a brief live-in affair at best. “