Uniform Marriage Age
Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay v Union of India
The Court dismissed the petition, stating that only Parliament had the power to provide a uniform minimum age for marriage irrespective of religion or gender.
Petitioner: Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay; Shahida Quraishi
Lawyers: Sr. Adv. Geeta Luthra; Ashwani Kumar Dubey (AoR); Manish Kumar (AoR); Sonia Mathur (AoR); Vandana Sharma Bhandari (AoR); Ankita Chaudhary (AoR); Bharti Tyagi (AoR); Praneet Pranav; Alpana Sharma; Sayooj Mohan Das; Bhaskar Gowtham
Respondent: Union of India
Lawyers: Gurmeet Singh Makker (AoR); Dr. Nishesh Sharma
Case Number: T.P.(C) 1249-1250/2020
Last Updated: February 20, 2023
Whether personal laws governing differences in marriage age are violative of Article 14, 15 and 21 of the Constitution of India, 1950?
Whether personal laws governing differences in marriage age is discriminatory on the basis of gender?
On 2nd February 2021, the Supreme Court issued notice on a petition seeking the transfer of pending petitions before the Rajasthan and Delhi High Courts. The petition was filed by Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay who is an advocate and a politician. He was represented by Senior Advocate Geeta Luthra.
The petition claims to have been filed in order to avoid the possibility of conflicting views with multiple litigations. The plea for transfer was originally filed on 26th October, 2020. The petitioner argues that the distinction in stipulated marriage ages for men and women is based on patriarchal stereotypes. Men are allowed to get married at the age of 21 while women are permitted at age 18.
The petition specifically highlights, Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872 – Section 60(1); Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act, 1936 – Section 3(1)(c); Special Marriage Act, 1954 – Section 4(c); Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 – Section 5(iii) and Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 – Section 2(a).
This distinction, according to the petitioner, “…is based on patriarchal stereotypes, has no scientific backing, perpetrates de jure and de facto inequality against women, and goes completely against the global trends”. The petitioner further argues that these provisions are manifestly arbitrary because of the discriminatory stereotypes it reinforces. Therefore, they violate the right to equality, right to prohibition of discrimination and the right to dignity of life, under Articles 14, 15 and 21 respectively.
The CJI Bobde led bench issued notice in this case. On April 5th 2020, the Union was granted four-weeks’ time by the Registrar to file its counter affidavit. On June 29th 2021, the Court heard a plea challenging provisions that prescribe different ages for marriage eligibility and tagged it with the transfer petition.
On February 20th, 2023, a Bench comprising CJI D.Y. Chandrachud, and Justices P.S, Narasimha and J.B. Pardiwala dismissed the petition, stating that Parliament must decide the issue, not the Supreme Court.