Kochi: The Kerala High Court has ruled that minor marriages under Muslim personal law are not excluded from the ambit of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses Act (POCSO).
If the bride or groom is a minor, regardless of whether the marriage is valid or void, the offenses under the POCSO Act will apply.
Single Bench of Justice Bechu Kurian Thomas further observed, “The POCSO Act is a special law enacted specifically to protect children from sexual offenses.
Sexual exploitation of any nature against a child is considered a criminal offense. Marriage is not excluded from the law. sweeping statute.
“The POCSO Act is a special piece of legislation. Advances and advances in societal thinking have resulted in enactment. This special act has been enacted on the basis of principles arising from child abuse case law.
Child abuse case law has evolved out of the need to protect vulnerable, trusting, and innocent children. The legislative intent to protect the child from sexual predators who hover over them under various labels, including that of marriage, is explicitly evident from the legal provisions,” he further noted.
The court also noted that child marriage was considered a violation of human rights.
“Child marriage threatens the growth of a child to its full potential. It is a curse on society. The legislative intent projected through the POCSO Act is to prohibit physical relations with a child, even under the guise of marriage.
This is also the intent of society, for the law is, as is often said, by expressing or reflecting the will of the people.
To effectuate the said intention, the POCSO Act defined the word “child” in Section 2 letter as “any person below the age of 18 years,” the court said.
“Personal laws and customary laws are both laws. Section 42A also intends to rewrite such laws. Therefore, it cannot be said that once the POCSO Act comes into force, penetrative intercourse with a child, even if it is under the guise of marriage, will be an offense,” he added in court.
The court made the decision when it rejected the bail application of a 31-year-old Muslim accused of kidnapping and raping a minor girl.
He claimed that he had validly married the girl in March 2021 under the personal laws applicable to them.