This article on ‘Legal Rights of an 18-Year-Old in India’ was written by an intern at Legal Upanishad.
In this article, we will take a look at what are the legal rights of an 18-year-old in India. We will understand the meaning of a child, when the age of majority is attained, the Indian Majority Act, and finally rights of an individual who has attained the age of majority.
Definition of a Child
In International Law, a ‘child’ means every human being who is below the age of 18 years which is mentioned in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). It is an international legal agreement that is accepted and ratified by most countries.
India has always recognized the category of persons below the age of 18 years as a distinct legal entity which is exactly why people can vote or get a driving license and/or enter into legal contracts only and only when they attain the age of 18 years. According to the Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929 marriage of a girl who is below the age of 18 years and a boy under 21 years is restrained from marriage. Moreover, after signing and ratifying the UNCRC in 1992, India had to change its law on juvenile justice to ensure that every person who is below 18 years of age, who needs care and protection, is entitled to receive it from the State.
The Indian Majority Act, 1875
According to section 3(1) of the Indian Majority Act 1875, unless or otherwise, any personal law specifies a different age of majority, every person who is domiciled in India would attain the age of majority upon the completion of 18 years.
Section 3(2) of the Act states that to compute the age of any person, the day on which they are born is counted as a whole day and an individual would attain the age of majority at the very beginning of that day. In cases where the court appoints a guardian or if an individual is under the court of wards then they would attain the age of majority after the completion of 21 years.
Rights that can be enjoyed at 18 years old in India
In the case of Preeti and the State of Haryana, the Punjab and Haryana High Court held that children usually attain the age of psychological and physiological maturity much before the legal age of majority. An important question was raised whether the legal age of the majority is on par with modern society.
The age of majority for a minor is determined by when the minor achieves mental and physical maturity. However, it depends upon current societal values including various socio-economic factors but most importantly, what society expects from its minors.
Rights given to 18 years old may include:-
1- Right to marry:
Earlier, the age of getting married was 18 years for girls and 21 years for boys. But recently the government increased the minimum age for marriage for girls from 18 years to 21 years of age.
2- Right to vote:
Earlier the voting age in a democracy mainly was 21 years or higher but in the 1970s several countries reduced the age to 18 years. According to the Sixty’s first Constitutional Amendment, the voting age was decreased from 21 years to 18 years for the election of the Lok Sabha and the Legislative Assemblies. One can apply for a voter Id card once they attain the age of majority. Voter ID is a photo identity card issued by the Election Commission of India to all Indian citizens who are eligible to vote.
3- Right to driver’s license:
In India, after the age of 18 years and above one can become eligible for applying for a driving license for driving motor vehicles. Different license categories are there for non-transport vehicles or private vehicles and transport vehicles.
4- Apply for a pan card:
When an individual starts earning, a pan card is needed for filing income tax returns. A PAN Card is a permanent account number issued by the Indian income tax department. One can also apply for a pan card before they turn the age of 18 years but it will be seen as a minor pan card.
5- Bank Account and ATM Card:
One can open their own Bank Account after 18, no doubt before 18 also you can start a bank account for savings and school scholarships, etc. But Minor Bank Account has some restrictions. Not all facilities are available as compared to normal accounts such as ATM Card or debit card, internet banking, checkbook facility, etc.
6- Enter into a contract:
In India, since 18 years is the age of majority, individuals who are the age of 18 years, do not have any capacity to enter into a contract. A contract or an agreement entered into by a minor is null and void from the beginning and no one can sue them for specific performance or damages. The State provides minors with civil and criminal immunities.
According to the new amendment made in the Indian Majority Act, the new minimum marital age for females will take precedence over all personal laws; thus, the legal age of marriage will be raised for all females, regardless of religion. Before this amendment, in 1978, the Indian government raised the legal minimum marriage age for girls from 15 to 18 years and boys from 18 to 21 years. The Delhi High Court has held that an individual of 18 years of age has full-fledged authority to lead their life according to their terms and parents are not allowed to force them to do things against their will.
- Understanding Child Rights. Vikaspedia. Retrieved from:- https://vikaspedia.in/education/child-rights/understanding-child-rights
- Indian Majority Act: Defining Legal Parameters Of Adulthood. Get Legal India. Written by Deeksha. Retrieved from:- https://getlegalindia.com/indian-majority-act/
- Rights of an 18 year old. Quora.com. Written by Harsh Rane in 2019. Retrieved from:- https://www.quora.com/I-have-turned-18-and-I-am-Indian-What-rights-do-I-have
- Delhi HC gives 18-yr-olds right to choose. DNAIndia. WRITTEN BY Kanu Sarda on Jul 12, 2010. Retrieved from:- https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.dnaindia.com/india/report-delhi-hc-gives-18-yr-olds-right-to-choose-1408523/amp