An adult woman can reside with whoever she likes, irrespective of parent’s wishes: High Court of Jammu and Kashmir

Upon turning 18 years of age, a woman is considered an adult and can legally enter wedlock. Furthermore an adult woman can choose to reside wherever she pleases irrespective of whether her family members approve of the same or not. The judgement passed by a single-member bench of the High Court of Jammu and Kashmir at Srinagar consisting of Justice Ali Magrey adjudged upon the case of Gulzar Ahmad Wani v Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir [WP(Crl) No.15/2021  Crl M. No.154/2021] on 4th June 2021 which dealt with this issue.

Gulzar Ahmad Wani, the petitioner claimed that his daughter Soniyah Gulzar is a minor who has been kidnapped by the accused Mohammad Amir Bhat and is kept at his house at Arigatnu, Kulgam. Soniyah Gulzar claims to be a major of 22 years and that she legally entered into wedlock with the accused and wilfully resides at her matrimonial home. As a result of the order issued on 1st June 2021, Secretary Legal Services Authority conducted and submitted a medical examination report of Soniya Gulzar and came to the conclusion that she is a minimum of 19 years, making her a major under Indian law. Both the counsels’ attempted to stretch the scope of the matter to what age a Muslim attains majority and can contract to marriage. However these arguments were discarded as being baseless and lacking merit by the court.

The court held that the findings the medical examination would be considered at the final authority in determining the age of Soniya Gulzar and that any woman who attains the age of adulthood is free to enter wedlock with whoever she likes and to reside wherever she likes irrespective of the opinions of her family members. Justice Ali Magrey can be quoted as saying “In light of clear findings recorded by the Court hereinabove, the Court feels it unnecessary to record a finding as to the legality or otherwise of the FIR in the instant petition. The above findings will naturally set the course of the investigation in the FIR and lead the IO to a just conclusion therein”. And it was concluded that “This petition is disposed of alongwith the accompanying CrlM No.71/2021. Interim direction, if any passed and subsisting shall merge in this final order passed by the Court”.

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