Can first cousins be in a marriage/live-in relationship? Punjab & Haryana High Court posed with question in anticipatory bail plea

The Court was hearing the anticipatory bail application of a person accused of kidnapping of a 17-year-old girl, who was stated to be his first cousin.
Can first cousins be in a marriage/live-in relationship? Punjab & Haryana High Court posed with question in anticipatory bail plea
Punjab & Haryana High Court to examine the legality of Marriage/Live-in Relationship Between First Cousins

While dealing with an anticipatory bail application, the Punjab & Haryana High Court was recently posed with the question of legality of a proposed marriage or a live-in relationship between first cousins (Akhilesh v. State of Punjab).

The Bench of Justice Arvind Singh Sangwan was hearing an anticipatory bail application by a person accused of kidnapping a 17-year-old girl. The petitioner stood charged under Sections 363 (kidnapping) and 366A (procuration of minor girl) of the Indian Penal Code.

Counsel for the petitioner, however, submitted that his client and the minor he allegedly ‘kidnapped’ were actually in a ‘live-in relationship’.

To buttress the submission, the counsel brought on record a criminal writ petition filed in the High Court seeking protection for the couple. The petition contained the minor’s representation, in which it was submitted that she was living with her friend (the petitioner) of her own volition, and that she apprehended that her parents would harass and disturb her “peace of mind”.

The petitioner had further undertaken to marry her once she attained majority. That writ petition had been disposed of, with a direction to the police to decide the petitioner's plea for protection.

In the present case, the State opposed the grant of anticipatory bail, stating that the earlier petition had concealed that the petitioner and the minor were first cousins. Their fathers were siblings, the High Court was told.

Since they were prohibited from marriage under Hindu law on account of being 'sapindas', they could not be allowed to be in a live-in relationship, which was itself per se immoral and not acceptable in the society, counsel for the State said.

Noting that the petitioner had concealed the fact that he and the minor were first cousins in the instant petition as well, the Court ruled that their proposed marriage would be per se illegal.

Counsel for the petitioner, in turn, sought to present arguments to demonstrate that the relationship/marriage is not illegal. He thus sought more time to make arguments in this regard.

The order passed by the Court reads:

"I find that in the present petition also, the petitioner has not disclosed about the fact that he is the first cousin…and, therefore, the submission in the present petition that as and when she attains the age of 18 years, they will perform marriage is also per se illegal. Faced with this, learned counsel for the petitioner seeks more time to address arguments."

The matter will next be taken up on January 11, 2021.

Advocate CS Rana appeared for the petitioner while DAG Joginder Pal Ratra represented the State of Punjab.

Read the Order

Akhilesh v. State of Punjab - redacted.pdf

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