AHMEDABAD – An Indian high court has permitted a 19-year-old Hindu girl to live-in with her Muslim boyfriend, who is just 20 years old and is currently ineligible for marriage.

On Tuesday, a bench of Gujarat High Court, comprising Justice Akil Kureshi and Justice Biren Vaishnav, allowed the reunion to take place on the wishes of the girl from a remote town of Dhanera in the border district of Banaskantha.

The bench observed: “Our society puts considerable stress on the institution of marriage and its sanctity. Instances of live-in relationship are largely confined to metro cities and other urban centres.

“Despite this, we must recognize our legal limitation in forcing an adult person of sound mind to stay at a place she does not want. Correspondingly, we also must recognize that we do not have the power to prevent the girl who is 19 years of age and is of sound mind from exercising her choice and joining the petitioner (her boyfriend), if she so desires.”

The pair studied together in school and were in love since their school days. Neither is ready to change his/her religion and the only option left is to have their marriage registered under the Special Marriages Act. The girl is eligible for this as she is above 18, but the boy is not because he is not yet 21, the Times of India reported.

This limitation led them to notarize a ‘maitri karaar’ (a friendship agreement used in the westernmost Indian state of Gujarat to formalize live-in relationships) in July.

However, the girl’s parents forcibly took her away some three months ago. The boy, who is engaged in his family’s readymade clothes business, approached the high court by filing a habeas corpus petition that his girlfriend was detained by her parents against her wishes and that she should be set free.

On the court orders, the police brought the girl before the court, where she said that she and her boyfriend would get married as soon as he turns 21. She did not want to live with her parents.

The court has asked the boy to file an affidavit that he would marry the girl upon turning 21.