Marrying an underage girl is child marriage, not kidnapping and hostage-taking: Supreme Court

Published On: July 27, 2023 05:30 PM NPT By: Bhasa Sharma

KATHMANDU, July 27: There have been instances of people marrying outside their castes against the consent of the girl’s family facing charges of kidnapping, hostage-taking, and rape. Giving its verdict on a similar case, the Supreme Court has (SC) ruled that such mariages are child marriages and not a case of abduction, hostage taking, and rape.

Hearing a similar case filed against a couple who had married each other through mutual consent, the Supreme Court ruled that it was a case of child marriage and not one of kidnapping, hostage-taking, and rape. A joint bench of Justices Anil Kumar Sinha and Kumar Chudal ruled that it was a case of child marriage, rejecting the government ‘s allegations of abduction, hostage-taking and rape that was based on a complaint registered by the girl's family.

Santosh Kumar Yadav of Saptari fell in love with a 15-year-old girl from Triyuga, Udayapur and married her in 2015. Then the girl's father filed a complaint with the police, claiming that some unknown people were taking his daughter to India after kidnapping her, holding her hostage and raping her he was not happy with the marriage. However, Santosh Kumar Yadav has been convicted of child marriage and sentenced to six months of prison and a fine of Rs 10,000. The Supreme Court issued the verdict on November 14, 2022 and made the full text of the verdict public on  Wednesday. The complaint was made due to a lack of parental approval because the man and the girl were from different castes and regions although they were in love for a year. Yadav gave a statement to the Udayapur District Court that he had not abducted the girl or held her hostage or raped her.

After that, Udayapur District Court cleared Yadav of the allegations, ruling that there was not enough evidence to substantiate the charge of rape. Then the Government of Nepal filed an appeal at the Biratnagar High Court. On December 5, 2018, the temporary bench at Okhaldhunga of the Biratnagar High Court overturned the district court's decision and sentenced Yadav to six years in jail for rape and a fine of Rs 50,000 for abduction and hostage-taking.

After that, Yadav filed an appeal at the SC, demanding that the highest court in the country uphold the judgment of the Udayapur District Court. Then the Supreme Court, changing the high court’s decision to a large extent, asserted the offense of child marriage, not abduction, histage-taking and rape. 

Section 219(2) of the Civil Criminal Procedure Code 2074 states, “If anyone rapes a girl without her consent, or establishes physical intimate relationship with a girl under eighteen years of age even with her consent, he shall be deemed to have raped such a woman or girl.”

The SC has said in the verdict, “Since the offenses of rape after kidnapping and body hostage have not been established and it is seen that the act of marriage was conducted by mutual consent between the two, the decision of the High Court Biratnagar, temporary bench Okhaldhunga will be overturned and the accused will be acquitted.” According to the verdict, for committing the offense of child marriage, Yadav has been sentenced to six months of in prison and a fine of Rs 10,000 for child marriage. 


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