The High Court of Judicature, Allahabad, on an order dated 17th September 2020, set Neha Verma free and gave her the liberty to choose who she wanted to live with as she was legally 18 years old and an adult.
Facts of the Case
The present Habeas corpus writ petition was filed by the second petitioner, Ramu claiming that the first petitioner (Neha Verma) – whom he was married to according to Hindu rites on the 14th of January, 2020 at the Arya Samaj, Chowk, at Prayag. However, her father (Mewa Lal), had asked the custody of her stating that she was sixteen and a half years old by producing the birth certificate at the Court of Chief Judicial Magistrate, Kaushambi and following the same she was detained unlawfully.
On 3rd September 2020, she was initially produced at the court (as per the order dated 1st September 2020), she had affirmed the marriage with Ramu and wanted to go with her husband stating that she was 18 years old and had the right to choose her path and take decisions in her life. She has expressly declined to go with her father.
Submissions Before the Court
The learned Counsel for the respondent no.4 had disputed the first petitioner’s age and had said that she was a minor and was only about sixteen and a half years old according to the birth certificate obtained from the A.D.O. panchayat, Kaushambi that was dated, 22nd January 2020.
However, the said certificate mentioned her birth date as 15th May 2004 and it was only obtained after her marriage which raised suspicions. When asked for previous schooling records, her school-leaving certificate that was also obtained after her marriage with Ramu had the date 15th May 2004 as her birth date. However, it is to be noted that other columns such as the age of the scholar during the time of school-leaving (which was one of the most decisive columns) was left blank. And all other important documents from the Primary Vidyalaya, Nandauli, in Kaushambi were also left blank. When the Headmaster and the S.R. Registrar were called upon and were asked as to why these columns related to her date of birth were left blank – they didn’t give any convincing answers. In the opinion of the Court, under the relevant section 94 (2) under the Juvenile Justice Act, ranking the medical evidence was collected regarding the first petitioner’s age in the Court.
In view of the above submissions at the Court, the bench of Justice J.J. Munir had directed that there was no valid certification of the first petitioner’s age based on the date of birth obtained from the School records and the Panchayat as it raised suspicions. So, the medico-legal report obtained by the Chief Medical officer, Kaushambi which stated that Neha Verma was about 18-19 years of age was considered final.
She was let free to choose her path – she chose her husband, Ramu. Further, the Court had stated that the first petitioner’s with her father, Mewa Lal is unlawful and cannot be permitted to continue. Also, the original records from the school, panchayat and primary school were to be lodged with the court and were directed to be retained in a sealed cover within 24 hours of the said order.
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