Uniform Marriage Age Day #1: Bench States Issue Is For Parliament To Decide

Uniform Marriage Age

Judges: D.Y. Chandrachud CJI, P.S. Narasimha J, J.B. Pardiwala J

Today, a Bench led by CJI D.Y. Chandrachud dismissed a transfer petition to declare 21 years as the minimum age for marriage for both men and women.. The petitioner, former BJP spokesperson and advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, claims that the laws prescribing the minimum age for marriage are arbitrary and discriminate against women. However, the Bench stated that case fell into the legislative realm and only Parliament had the power to make changes to the age of marriage.


Mr. Upadhyay filed this petition as part of a batch of petitions which collectively seek the creation of a Uniform Civil Code. He claims that the distinction between marriage ages for men and women (21 years and 18 years respectively) is based on patriarchal stereotypes and is antithetical to the cause of gender justice. He has specifically challenged provisions contained in the Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872, the Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act, 1936, the Special Marriage Act, 1954, the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, and the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006.

Bench Refuses To Entertain Plea, Says Only Parliament Can Address The Issue

CJI Chandrachud was immediately perplexed by Mr. Upadhyay’s petition. He stated that if the Court accepted the submissions and struck down the challenged provisions, there would be no marriage age across the board. This would allow people to get married at an even younger age than currently provided. 

Mr. Upadhyay disagreed, stating that the marriage age would become 21 years (the age for men) for everyone. However, despite asking the Court to look at the Acts in question, he provided no further explanation on how this would be achieved. CJI Chandrachud asked Mr. Upadhyay not to make a ‘mockery’ of Article 32 of the Constitution of India. This provision gives citizens the right to approach the SC for the enforcement of fundamental rights. 

Mr Upadhyay was also faced with stern questioning from the Bench about how the SC could entertain this petition. The issue falls in the legislative domain and only Parliament or the State Legislature can enact laws to address it. Mr. Upadhyay asked for an adjournment, stating that his arguing counsel (Senior Advocate Gopal Shankaranaryanan) was occupied in a different case. However, the Bench curtly refused. 

When the Bench broached the topic of dismissing the case, Mr. Upadhyay sought leave to approach the Law Commission in order to push them to release a report on the issue. Further, he attempted to appeal to the Judges’ conscience, stating that it was a matter of gender justice and the SC was the custodian of the Constitution. CJI Chandrachud, patience wearing thin, rebuked Mr. Upadhyay for making ‘gratuitous’ comments. He also stated that there was no need for the Court to give leave to approach the Law Commission as Mr. Upadhyay was free to do so. 

The Bench dismissed the petition.