Ground Report | New Delhi: Child marriage registration in Rajasthan; On Friday, the Rajasthan State Assembly passed the Rajasthan Compulsory Marriage Registration (Amendment) Bill, 2021 to amend the Rajasthan Compulsory Marriage Registration Act, 2009.
The 2009 Act provides for compulsory registration of marriages including child marriages. As per the Act, the parents or guardians of the bride and groom who have not completed 21 years have to register the marriage within 30 days. The amended Section 8 of the Bill seeks to reduce the age of compulsory registration by the bride’s parents from 21 to 18.
The State Government of Rajasthan, while passing the Bill, relied upon the judgment given by the Supreme Court (SC) in Siems v. Ashwini Kumar (2006). As per the judgment, the SC made it mandatory to register all marriages, including child marriages, of Indian citizens.
Moving out, the BJP said the bill violates the law against child marriage and will pave the way for the marriage of minor children. Whereas, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) requested the Rajasthan State Government to be sensitive towards children and reconsider.
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Child marriage registration in Rajasthan
The state government has given three arguments for introducing this amendment. Firstly, as per the Supreme Court’s decision in the Transfer Writ (Civil) dated February 14, 2006, in the case of Mrs. Seema Vs. Ashwani Kumar, registration of every marriage is mandatory. But it is worth noting that the Supreme Court has not mentioned child marriage anywhere in its decision.
It is a different matter that child marriage is seen as a valid marriage in society, but the Supreme Court has not mentioned anywhere in its decision that child marriage should also be included in the registration. If the Rajasthan government was in any kind of confusion about this, it could have approached the Supreme Court for clarification. But quite differently, the government went ahead with its own shoddy approach to take the amendment forward.
While the Act originally required both boys and girls to be 21 years of age for mandatory registration by parents, the amendment aims to reduce the age of girls to 18. It does not legalize child marriage. Along with the level of District Marriage Registration Officer, as well as in place of Additional District Marriage Registration Officer and Block Marriage Registration Officer level, now registration can be done in three levels.
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Child Marriage Prohibition Act, 2006
The Act seeks to prohibit the solemnization of child marriages and matters connected therewith. Section 2(b) of the Act defines “child marriage” as a marriage in which one of the parties to the contract is a child. The same Act defines a male and a female child as not completing the age of 21 and 18 years respectively.
Interestingly, Section 3 of the Act does not make child marriage void but calls it voidable. The section treats it as an offense punishable with rigorous imprisonment. Rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years and with a fine which may extend to one lakh rupees for the consanguinity of child marriage (Section 11), or for the consanguinity of child marriage (Section 10). If a man marries an adult child, the punishment may extend to either or both (Section 9).
Section 3 of the Act declares that child marriage at the option of the party contracting to have a child at the time of marriage is void and allows a petition to annul the child marriage.