Report No. 83
Guardianship, as envisaged by the Act, is a concept integrally linked with the legal concept of "minority". At the outset, therefore, the position as to minority may be briefly adverted to. The principal enactment on the subject is the Indian Majority Act, 1875.
In Indian law, in the main, three periods of guardianship of minors with reference to the age of the minor fall to be considered. In the first place, a minor is a person under the specified age in regard to matters falling within personal law. This age varies, but in the case of Hindus (under the uncodified law), it was 15 years or 16 years (according to the school by which the minor was governed). According to Muslim law, minority extends upto the age of 15 years. For Hindus, by statute,1 it is now 18 years.
In the second place, a person is a minor in matters governed by the Indian Majority Act2 till he attains the age of 18 years. That Act does not extend to the capacity of any person to act in certain specified matters-mainly, marriage, dower, divorce and adoption and matters governed by the religion or religious rites and usages of any class of persons. In the third place, in the case of a person who has a guardian appointed by the Court or who is under the superintendence of the Court of Wards, minority extends upto the age of 21 years.3
The statutory minimum age of marriage is now 21 years for males and 18 years for females.4 However, marriage in contravention of the prescribed age is not void for the purposes of civil law, though it may attract criminal liability.
1. Section 4(a), Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, 1956.
2. The Indian Majority Act, 1875.
3. The Indian Majority Act, 1875.
4. Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929, as amended.