The Majority Act, 1875

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The Majority Act, 1875 was enforced on 2nd March, 1875. The law was legislated inorder to introduce a law relating to law of majority. The Act was enacted with a view to attain uniformity and certainty with respect to the age of majority. Prior to the enactment of the Act, there was no uniformity with respect to age of majority. The act aims at fixing a uniform age of majority. After its amendment in the year 1999, Majority Act presently is known as Indian Majority (Amendment) Act, 1999.

The Majority Act 1875, states that every person residing in India shall attain majority on completion of 18 years of age. The age under Majority Act would not apply incase of prevalence of personal law or custom. Also in cases where a guardian has been appointed by any court, the age of majority shall be 21 years and not 18. The act applies to all of India except for the State of Jammu and Kashmir.

Under section 2 of the act it is expressly laid down that the Act shall not apply incase of matters relating to marriage, adoption, dower and divorce, thus the Act would not be applicable in all such cases where personal laws are applicable. Secondly the law shall not be applicable incase of practice of any religious rites or ceremonies.  Thirdly, the act is not applicable to persons who have attained majority before the commencement of the Act.

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Section 3 of the act is clearly applicable to minors who shall attain majority at the age of 21 years. Every minor whose person or property, or both is in custody of a guardian appointed by any court other than a guardian defined under chapter XXXI of The Code of Civil Procedure, shall attain age of majority on completion of twenty one years of age.  Such guardian being appointed before the minor attains the age of eighteen years. In cases where the property of minor is in custody of Court of Wards, the age of majority in such cases shall also be twenty one years. Only in situations arising under section 3 of the Act shall the age of majority be twenty one year’s in every other case it shall be eighteen years. The age of majority shall be computed since the day a person is born. The day on which a person is born shall be included as an entire day under section 4 of the Act.

The term ‘age’ under section 3 of the Act is not be construed strictly. Supreme Court in Prabhu Dayal Sesma versuss State Of Rajasthan & Another, 1986 AIR 1948, in this case applications were invited for direct recruitment to Rajasthan Administrative Services, 1982 by competitive examination. It was notified that the person eligible should have attained age of 21 years on 1st January 1984 and should not have attained age of 28 years on 1st January, 1984. The appellant had attained age of 28 years on 1st January, 1984 but was allowed for examination. But later his candidature was rejected on the ground that he had attained age of 28 years. Even though the petitioner could not contest his stand of his being ineligible just by a single day still the Supreme Court asked the Rajasthan Service Commission to construe section 4 of the Indian Majority Act, 1875 liberally.

Under Indian Majority (Amendment) Act, 1999 certain amendments were brought and the term ‘Indian’ was deleted from section 1 of The Indian Majority Act, 1875.  A preamble was added to the parent act. Under the parent act the phrase, “to prolong the period of nonage, and to attain more uniformity and certainty respecting the age of majority that now exists”  is substituted by the words, “to specify the age of majority”. The amendment act, 1999 has also brought changes to the principle sections i.e. section 3 and section 4 of the Indian Majority Act, 1875. Under section 3 of The Indian Majority Act 1875 the words, ‘when he shall have completed his age are substituted by, ‘on his completing the age’. Under section 4 of The Indian majority Act certain additions are made. Under the parent Act the day on which person is born the entire day is taken into consideration along with, that the person shall deemed to have attained majority at the beginning of the eighteenth anniversary of that day, under the Indian Majority (Amendment) Act, 1999.

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by Vibhuti Nakta