Friday, 19 August, 2022
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‘Demeaning child-like work’: Punjab & Haryana HC on pleas by runaway couples for protection

Justice Rajiv Narain Raina said the HC was not meant for such ‘parasitical non-litigation’ and suggested these cases be heard by lower courts to unburden the high court.

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New Delhi: The Punjab and Haryana High Court has said the large number of cases filed by runaway couples before it, seeking protection from their disapproving families, was providing to be a “big burden” and draining its resources. 

Calling it “the most demeaning child-like work high court judges have been forcibly tasked with”, Justice Rajiv Narain Raina batted for a solution for these cases to be heard by the lower courts instead. 

“This is just a suggestion to unburden the court from this litigation. It is for the legislature to find solutions, if required or deemed expedient,” the court clarified last week. 

Justice Raina asserted the high court was not meant for such “parasitical non-litigation”.

The court also pointed out the financial strain that the couples endure to fight such cases, observing: “These runaways may have little resources in their pocket and the money spent abundantly on the thriving industry could well last the couple their necessities for quite a long time or at least till they live on love and fresh air.”

The high court has reportedly been hearing 20-25 such petitions everyday even during the lockdown. When the court was functioning normally, this number was even higher, crossing the 100 mark on several days. 

Also read: Supreme Court can’t show weakness when people’s lives lie in the hands of murderous mobs

How did it all began

The tradition of couples approaching the high court can be traced back to 2002, when then chief justice B.K. Roy began granting such protection. 

In July 2012, the court had also directed the deputy commissioners (DCs), superintendents of police (SPs), and the district and sessions judges to protect life and liberty of these couples, whenever approached. However, couples continue to throng the high court with protection requests. 

On Friday, the court was hearing one such petition by a couple who had married against the wishes of their parents. They had cited the right to life and liberty under Article 21 of the Constitution.

Allowing their plea, the court directed the police commissioner, Jalandhar, to take steps for their safety.

‘Cottage industry’ around protection petitions

However, in its order, the court noted the photographs attached with several such petitions “do not even show the maulvis, granthis and purohits/pandits etc. who performed the ‘ceremony’ and just two of them, these days wearing masks”.

“They appear like studio photos with lots of pictures of Gods and Goddesses showering blessings on them, which photos actually make no difference in support of protection petitions,” it said.

The court then asserted that over the years, a “cottage industry” has grown around these petitions and asserted it was time for these petitions to just include the basics, instead of staged photos, among others. 

‘Photographs are not proof of marriage’

The court has directed the registry that photographs should not be attached with protection petitions by runaway couples unless their lawyers filed an affidavit, saying the photos are necessary.

It asked the registry to stop entertaining such petitions with photographs of couples as evidence or proof of marriage. 

“Photographs are not proof of marriage neither is a court concerned with the marriage in this jurisdiction. The court is only concerned about the identity of the petitioners in these cases, which can be traced back,” it observed, saying the Aadhaar cards and other official identification documents would be enough for this purpose. 

Also read: Newlyweds move HC for protection, get fined Rs 10,000 for not wearing masks during ceremony


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