The Uttarakhand High Court has sought a reply from the state and the central governments on a PIL saying marriages of girls under 18 years of age, permitted under the Muslim law, must be declared illegal.

The PIL has been filed by the Youth Bar Association of India.

Hearing the petition on Friday, a Division Bench of Chief Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice R C Colby directed the Centre and the Uttarakhand government to file a reply in the matter.

The plea said the Muslim personal law allows marriage of girls under 18 years of age. Due to this, courts are bound to provide protection to young married girls who have not yet attained the age of 18, it added.

This causes health issues among young girls who establish physical relationships, get pregnant or give birth at such a tender age, the PIL stated.

It said granting permission of marriage to girls under 18 years of age was a crime under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.

Such marriages should not only be declared illegal but those maintaining physical relationship with women younger than 18 years of age under the garb of marriage must also be booked under the POCSO Act, it demanded.

The PIL also suggested that the age of marriage of a woman should be increased from 18 years to 21 years, and until such a provision is made, any and every marriage where the female is under 18 must be termed illegal regardless of the caste or the religion of the parties involved.

With PTI inputs