The Allahabad High Court has asked the Arya Samaj Temples (Mandirs) to make stringent rules and procedures for the purpose of preventing child marriages that are taking place in the same.

The Court has also given some suggestions and issued some directions in this regard asking the Arya Samaj Body to issue guidelines to abolish the solemnization of such illegal marriages.

A Single Bench of Justice Saurabh Shyam Shamshery observed, “It is high time when Arya Samaj has to do introspection so that they may not be subjected to fraud. They have to make stringent rules and procedure to verify the credentials of prospective bride and groom, especially when they are on run from their respective families or they are approached through touts, who are prevailing in Allahabad as they are promising couples on run, that they will get protection from this Court. If responsible members does not take cognizance of this menace, a day will come soon that Arya Samaj Mandir will become a place for solemnizing illegal marriage and their prestige will be in doom.”

The Bench noted that it is the duty of responsible office bearers of Arya Samaj to stop their pious efforts to propagate the teachings of Swami Dayanand Ji including to curb ‘child marriage’ to be misused by persons, who indulge them in solemnising such marriages which may not be legalised.

Advocate Vishnu Murti Tripathi appeared for the applicant while Advocate Pradeep Kumar and AGA Chandan Agarwal appeared for the informant and State respectively.

Brief Facts -

The applicant had approached the Court by way of filing a bail plea under Section 439 of the Cr.P.C. in connection to the crime under Sections 363, 366, and 376(3) of the I.P.C. and 3/4 of the POCSO Act after the rejection of his plea by a Special Judge(POCSO Act). The informant i.e., the mother of the victim had earlier lodged an F.I.R. that her daughter who went to attend nature's call did not return, and on a rigorous search, could not be found.

The counsel for the applicant submitted that the victim agreed that she ran away with the applicant and got married but then they were apprehended and further submitted that she took a contrary stand before Magistrate that the applicant enticed, kidnapped and took her to Prayagraj for marriage and made physical relationship against her will. Whereas, the counsel for the State submitted that as per the educational document, she was a minor and hence her consent is immaterial and further referred a certificate of marriage issued by Arya Samaj who solemnized her illegal marriage.

The High Court in the above context asserted, “In the present case, according to educational document, age of victim on the date of occurrence was about 15 years and 8 months and according to her medical examination also, age is opined between 17 to 18 years, therefore, victim is a minor girl and accordingly, there is merit in argument of learned A.G.A-I that consent of a minor girl is immaterial.”

The Court, therefore, rejected the bail application of the applicant and directed the Trial Court to record the statement of the victim expeditiously, preferably within three months after which the applicant could file a fresh bail plea.

“… the Court took serious note that Arya Samaj, Krishna Nagar, Prayagraj has issued a marriage certificate of applicant with victim, a copy of same is on record. Marriage certificate does not indicate how age of victim is verified i.e. above 18 years. It was the duty of Arya Samaj Krishna Nagar, Prayagraj that before solemnizing marriage, it should be carefully verified whether they are solemnizing a marriage between two adult persons or not. It amounts to a child marriage which was opposed by Swami Dayanand Saraswati Ji”, noted the Court.

The Court further observed that ‘Vivah Sanskar’ has always been a sacred and pious process for a bride and groom before they enter into their ‘Grihasth Ashram’.

“Of late, Court has encountered with certificate being issued for marriages solemnised by Arya Samaj’s ritual by misleading them on basis of forged or incorrect declaration that both bride and groom are major, however invariably it was found to be contrary to record and thus indulged the members of Arya Samaj to commit not only an illegality but to act against the teachings of their guru. This would not less than betraying the trust of Swami Dayanand imposed on members of Samaj”, said the Court.

The Court also said that it has first-hand information that how a priest at an Arya Samaj Mandir, near to High Court convinced a person that marriage can be solemnized with minimum papers and he would get a concession in fee fixed for marriage which shows how a pious place it is becoming for conducting activity for money which may not fall under ‘legal activity’.

“It is a old saying that “Prevention is better than Cure”, therefore, it is directed that Arya Samaj Krishna Nagar, Prayagraj shall not solemnise any marriage where proposed groom and bride have no consent from there families for a period of two months from today”, held the Court after giving its suggestions and issuing some directions.

Accordingly, the Court directed the President of Sarvadeshik Arya Pratinidhi Sabha to prepare a guideline/report and submit the same within eight weeks.

Cause Title- Pappu v. State of U.P. and 3 Others

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