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India Takes 'Judicial Activism' to Amusing New Heights

As American conservatives complain about judicial activism after the Supreme Court's decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act and allow sinfulness in California, the top court in one of India's largest cities has managed to put our Justices to shame. As reported by The Hindu:

If any unmarried couple of the right legal age "indulge in sexual gratification," this will be considered a valid marriage and they could be termed "husband and wife," the Madras High Court has ruled in a judgment that gives a new twist to the concept of premarital sex.

The court said that if a bachelor has completed 21 years of age and an unmarried woman 18 years, they have acquired the freedom of choice guaranteed by the Constitution. "Consequently, if any couple choose to consummate their sexual cravings, then that act becomes a total commitment with adherence to all consequences that may follow, except on certain exceptional considerations."

If this doesn't seem likely enough to lead to meddling and confusion... "The court also said if after having a sexual relationship, the couple decided to separate due to difference of opinion, the husband could not marry without getting a decree of divorce from the wife." There is no word yet on whether this ruling will apply to gay sexual partners, but perhaps this is the best way to sneak gay marriage into India!

Update: There have been questions raised about the accuracy of The Hindu's reporting. See here, for example. The court decision is clearly silly, but its legal meaning might be slightly more complex than the article implies. The ruling judge followed up by adding:

If a bachelor aged 21 years or above and a spinster aged 18 years or above had premarital sex with the intention to marry and subsequent to this the man deserts the woman, the victim woman can approach a civil forum for remedy after producing necessary substantial evidence to grant her social status as wife. This remedy is not only for the purpose of giving relief to the victim woman but also to maintain the cultural integrity of India.

Isaac Chotiner is a senior editor at The New Republic. Follow him on Twitter @IChotiner.