February 7, 2021 12:14:12 am
MORE THAN a year since a man filed a habeas corpus petition seeking the production of his daughter before the Gujarat High Court, claiming that she is a minor and had eloped with a man in 2019, the court allowed the couple to be united in marriage and also extended them police protection.
The court, in the order dated January 28, which was made public earlier this week, also directed prosecution proceedings to be continued against the father for forging the birth documents of his daughter to show her as a minor. The court also said the woman, who was tested positive for HIV, should receive due medical treatment.
The court made the observations while hearing a petition of a Muslim man who had opposed the relationship of his daughter with a Hindu man. The couple had eloped and were staying in the Palanpur taluka in 2019.
In December that year, the woman’s father, through his advocate, had moved the Gujarat High Court seeking his daughter’s production. An FIR was filed at Palanpur, Banaskantha district, on his complaint, under Indian Penal Code sections pertaining to kidnapping from lawful guardianship, and kidnapping, abducting or inducing woman to compel her marriage (363, 366) as well under Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act under provisions pertaining to penetrative sexual assault, claiming the woman was a minor and aged 16 years.
The court had then issued an arrest warrant and the couple were found in July last year. While the man was arrested, the woman was produced before the court where she submitted that she is more than 20 years old and insisted that her the birth certificate “is bogus to ensure that she does not join the respondent No 2 (the man),” the court recorded.
The investigating officer, too, reported to the court that no such birth certificate was found in the records of the concerned village panchayat. The police then lodged a complaint against the woman’s father for forgery.
In August 2020, the court directed the woman to stay at the Palanpur shelter home, pending confirmation of her age. Meanwhile, as per protocol, she was tested for Covid-19. Medical examination, however, revealed her to be positive for HIV-AIDS. Given the circumstances, the woman remained adamant that she wanted to join the man, and not her parents.
Taking note of her HIV positive status, the court permitted her to stay at the Palanpur shelter home while ensuring that the couple was adequately tested again in a span of a few weeks, taking into consideration the incubation period of the virus that can stretch up to six months. In September 2020, the court also directed for free medical services, including regular anti-retroviral therapy as well as regular counselling through a psychologist or psychiatrist.
A repeat test showed HIV-AIDS positive status for the woman, while her partner tested negative. Given the status, the court permitted her to join the man, while the latter submitted before the court that the two planned to marry within a span of two to three days.
In the order dated January 28, a bench of Justices Sonia Gokani and Sangeeta Vishen recorded: “We were also concerned as this being a inter-religion marriage and the girl being tested positive for HIV-1 antibodies and, therefore, we tried to explain all the details ourselves and also through the learned 6th Additional District Judge, Palanpur to the respondent, who is very firm in his decision in continuing their relationship. The marriage of theirs, according to him, shall take place in 2-3 days’ time. Let the registration of the said marriage be also made and the certificate of which shall be produced before the district court, Palanpur. On receipt of the marriage certificate, the same shall be forwarded to the Registrar (Judicial) for placing it on record. Civil Hospital, Palanpur, also be intimated through the District Legal Service Authority to provide best possible care to corpus in her regular treatment at ART Centre, Palanpur. Couple shall ensure at least for the initial period of six months to visit learned 6th Additional District Judge, Palanpur, every time they visit the hospital, so that if they have any issues, they can ventilate and the wellbeing of the corpus also can be ensured… The couple, if requires protection, let the same be provided initially for a period of eight weeks and thereafter, SP, Palanpur shall decide the course of action.”
The petitioner’s advocate, however, told The Sunday Express the Palanpur court had, so far, not received any document confirming that the couple were married.
In December last year, the woman’s father was taken into judicial custody on charges of forging documents and continues to be in jail. The court directed for the prosecution proceedings against the father to continue and said he “shall be prosecuted in accordance with law without being influenced by any of the events which have taken shape later”.
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