SC recognises underage man's right to life with 'wife'

SC recognises underage man's right to life with 'wife'

An adult couple has a right to live together without marriage, the Supreme Court said, while asserting that a 20-year-old Kerala woman, whose marriage had been annulled, could choose whom she wanted to live with. DH file photo

In a unique case, the Supreme Court has intervened to allow an adult man below the marriageable age of 21 years to reside with his 19-year-old "wife" as part of a live-in relationship.

As both the man, Nandakumar, and the woman, Thushara, are Hindus, their marriage is not null and void in the eyes of law — at the most, it is a voidable marriage, the court said. 

A bench of justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan noted that both of them are majors. Nandakumar will turn 21 on May 31.

"Even if they were not competent to enter into wedlock, they have right to live together even outside wedlock," the court said.

It also noted that 'live-in relationship' is now recognised by the legislature under the provisions of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005.

On an appeal filed by Nandakumar, the court set aside a Kerala High Court judgement which had entrusted the custody of Thushara to her father, made on a habeas corpus petition.

After going through the records, the high court said on April 12, 2017, when the couple solemnised their marriage, the man was below the marriageable age of 21 years. So, it concluded that Thushara was not lawfully wedded wife of Nandakumar.

The man, in his plea before the Supreme Court, said it was not permissible for the high court to go into the validity of marriage.

He also pointed out Thushara was already a major and her custody cannot be handed over to her father.

Agreeing to his submission, the bench also relied upon the recent Shafin Jahan versus Asokan K M case (Hadiya case) judgement, wherein the top court recognised the right to choice of an adult person in such cases.

Setting aside the directions of the high court, the top court said Thushara was not part of proceedings before it but she has expressed her desire (before the high court) to be with Nandakumar.

The bench said it was making it clear that Thushara would be free to choose whom she wants to live with.