A father petitioned the Madras High Court to direct the Inspector of Police (the first respondent) to secure his daughter’s release from the custody of the second and third respondents (a father and son) and place her in his custody. The daughter, who was 17 years old, had left to go to a local temple but did not return. Her father stated that the second and third respondents had kidnapped her and filed a habeas corpus petition on this basis.

Upon the hearing of this petition, the daughter filed an affidavit stating that she was in love with and had married the second respondent, and that she had not been kidnapped nor was she being illegally detained by him or any of his family members. She stated that, when her parents discovered her feelings, they had started arranging a marriage with her maternal uncle against her wishes and so she left her home of her own accord.

The second and third respondents submitted a petition for the girl to attend an engineering college and live in accommodations provided for her there. Since the girl was not willing to go with her parents, the girl was housed in a government children’s home by the Division Bench of the Madras High Court.

When considering the issues of the case, the Division Bench of the Madras High Court referred certain questions to a three-judge bench of the Madras High Court, principally:

(a) Whether a marriage contracted by a person with a female of less than 18 years could be said to be a valid marriage;
(b) Whether the custody of the said girl be given to the husband;
(c) Whether a minor can be said to have reached the age of discretion and thereby walk away from the lawful guardianship of her parents and refuse to go into their custody and if yes) can she be kept in the protective custody of the State;
(d) Whether, in view of the provisions of Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2000, a minor girl who claims to have solemnized her marriage with another person constitutes a juvenile in conflict with law and whether in violation of the procedure mandated by the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2000 the Court has the power to entrust the custody of the minor girl to the person to whom she was illegal married;
(e) Whether the principles of Sections 17 & 19(a) of the Guardians and Wards Act 1890 could be imported to a case arising out of the alleged marriage of a minor girl, admittedly in contravention of the provisions of the Hindu Marriage Act.