Court relief for young wife

A girl whose bone test report says she is between 16 and 18 years of age should be considered an 18-year-old and allowed to stay with the man of her choice, the high court ruled on Thursday.

Bharati Chowdhury had been sent to a home for the destitute after her legally-wed husband was arrested following a kidnap complaint lodged by her parents.

"Since the ossification report stated that the age of the girl is between 16 and 18 years, the court will accept the upper limit and consider the girl major," Justice K.S. Ahluwalia said.

The judge then asked Bharati whom she would like to stay with ' husband Santosh Chowdhury or her parents. Bharati replied she would be happy to stay with her husband and the judge asked the authorities of the home to hand her over to husband Santosh.

The duo left the courtroom together, in the presence of the members of both families.

Legal sources dubbed the order unique. "Since the case involves wedding, the court accepted the upper age limit shown in the ossification test report. The order will be used as a precedent in many other similar cases," said advocate Rabishankar Chatterjee.

Santosh, a resident of Rabindranagar under Chitpore police station in north Calcutta, moved a petition before Justice Ahluwalia, seeking custody of his wife Bharati. Santosh submitted that both he and Bharati were major.

Following the petition, the judge asked the police to conduct an ossification test on Bharati to determine her age and the authorities of the home to produce her before him on Thursday.

Bharati, a resident of Rajabagan in Dum Dum, left home and married Santosh on October 8. Ashok Chowdhury, Bharati's father, lodged a complaint with Rajabagan police on October 9, alleging that Santosh and his parents had kidnapped his minor daughter. He also stated that Santosh had forcibly married Bharati.

On the basis of the complaint, the Rajabagan police arrested both Santosh and Bharati. When they were produced in an Alipore court, Santosh was sent to jail and Bharati to the Dum Dum home for the destitute.

Santosh was released on bail a month later.

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