Association for Social Justice & Research v. Union of India

The Association for Social Justice & Research filed a habeas corpus petition to trace Chandni, an allegedly 11 to 12-year-old child. The NGO had heard that Chandni’s parents forced her to marry a 40-year-old man, who in return paid her parents. Once the marriage was discovered, several groups tried unsuccessfully to trace Chandni. She was ultimately located by the police and her father and husband were arrested. Chandni was then sent to live at a children’s home while the Court determined who should have custody of her.  

During her court appearance Chandni stated that she was in fact 17 years old and had freely consented to the marriage. A medical examination deduced that Chandni was between 16 and 18 years old. Chandni’s father and husband both denied that there was a monetary exchange in relation to the marriage. Chandni’s father stated that he had arranged the marriage as he had a large family and low income and was therefore unable to educate his children. 

Separate criminal proceedings against Chandni’s father and husband were ongoing. The Court in this case dealt solely with the issue of custody of Chandni. The Court did not dispute the fact that Chandni’s current marriage violated the terms of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act (“Act”) of 2006, as she was under 18 years of age.