Once a person becomes a major according to the Indian Majority Act, 1875 (which is 18 years of age, vide Section 3) he/she is deemed by the law to know what is in his/her interest. Hence after crossing the age of 18 years no one can legally prevent a person from marrying a person of his/her choice.
In Lata Singh vs. State of U.P., 2006 the facts were that the petitioner fell in love with a young man of a different caste. This very much angered her brothers who started harassing the couple in various ways, because of which she had to leave Lucknow where she had been living. In the petition which came up before the Supreme Court in a bench of which I was a member we observed:
“This is a free and democratic country, and once a person becomes a major he or she can marry whomsoever he/she likes. If the parents of the boy or girl do not approve of such inter caste or inter religious marriage the maximum they can do is that they can cut off social relations with the son or the daughter, but they cannot give threats or commit or instigate acts of violence and cannot harass the person who undergoes such inter caste or inter religious marriage”.
We directed the administration and police to prevent harassment or violence on such couples, and those who do so should be criminally prosecuted.
In my view the right to marry a person of one’s choice is a part of the right to privacy, which has by judicial interpretation been held to be part of Article 21 of the Constitution.
In Arumugam Servai vs. State of Tamil Nadu, 2011, the Supreme Court condemned the shameful practice of ‘honour killing’ in some parts of India, of young couples who enter into an inter caste or inter religious marriage against the wishes of their parents or other relatives or caste/community members. We directed criminal prosecution of those who commit such crimes, and suspension of the administrative or police officers who do not prevent them.