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Child Marriage

Prohibition of Child Marriage Act

Prohibition of Child Marriage Act

The Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929, was amended in 1978, where the lawful age of marriage of girls was increased from 15 to 18 years and of boys from 18 to 21 years. The Indian Government enacted the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act of 2006 by replacing the earlier legislation of the Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929, to ensure that child marriage is eradicated from within the society. In this article, we look at the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act in detail.

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Objectives of the Act

The primary object of the Act is to prohibit solemnization of child marriage. This Act is armed with enabling provisions to prohibit child marriages and provide relief to victims and enhance punishment for those who abet, promote or solemnise such marriages. As per the act, the age of marriage for boys is 21, and for girls, it is 18, and any marriage of people below this age will be considered as a child marriage which is illegal, an offence and is punishable under the law.

The below following are the objectives of this legislation

  • The Act makes child marriage voidable.
  • The Act also allows for maintenance and residence for the girl till her remarriage from the male contracting party or his parents.
  • All the punishments contemplated under the Act are quite enhanced as compared to the 1929 Act.

Applicability of the Act

This Act applies to the following aspects that are listed below:

  • It applies to all India citizens irrespective of religion and beyond India.
  • This Act does not apply to the State of Jammu and Kashmir and renunciants of the Union territory of Pondicherry.

Implementation of the Act

Prevention

The law seeks to prohibit child marriages by making specific actions punishable and by appointing certain authorities responsible for the prohibition and prevention of child marriages. These persons are responsible for ensuring that the Act is implemented. Child Marriage Prohibition Officers (CMPO) are to be appointed in every state to prohibit child marriages, ensure the protection of the victims as well as prosecution of the offenders. The Act lays down penal provisions for those who solemnise child marriages. The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, under section 11 provides punishment for those who permit and promote child marriages.

Protection

The law provides for all support and aid including medical aid, legal aid, counselling and rehabilitation support to children once they are rescued. It gives legal status to all children born from child marriages and makes provisions for their custody and maintenance. It provides for the residence and maintenance of the female contracting party.

Prosecution of Offenders

The law provides for punishment for a male above 18 years of age marrying a child. The Child Marriage Prohibition Officer has been empowered to provide necessary and legal aid to victims of child marriage and to produce children in need of care and protection before the Child Welfare Committee or a First Class Judicial Magistrate, where there is no Child Welfare Committee.

Child Marriage Prohibition Officers

A child marriage prohibition officer is deemed a public servant in this act. The Child Marriage Prohibition Officer (CMPO), who is responsible for ensuring no child marriage, takes place in their jurisdiction by approaching the courts for the following reasons listed below:

  • Revention of child marriages
  • Collecting the proof for Prosecution
  • Creating strong awareness about the issue and the Act
  • Counselling and advising individuals against early marriage
  • Sensitising the community
  • Maintaining and distributing statistics

Child Marriage to be Voidable

  1. Every child marriage shall be voidable whether solemnised before or after the commencement of this Act, at the option of the contracting party who was a child at the time of the marriage.
  2. The annulment of child marriage can be sought within two years after the child who was a party to the marriage had attained majority.
  3. Only the children in the marriage themselves can file a petition for voidability or annulment of marriage. And if the petitioner is a minor as per PCMA, the petition can be filed through a guardian or the next best friend of the married child (who must be an adult of 18 years or more), along with the Child Marriage Prohibition Officer (CMPO).
  4. The District Court can grant nullity of marriage. The District Court includes the Family Court and Principal Civil Court of Original Jurisdiction, and any other civil court specified by the State Government.

Petition to Nullify Child Marriage

The petition to nullify the child marriage can be made in court only by the girl or boy, who are below 18 years of age at the time of marriage. However, a guardian along with the Child Marriage Prohibition Officer (CMPO) can file the annulment petition on behalf of the child, if they are is still minor.

Under specific conditions, child marriages can be declared null and void by the Courts. These include:

  • Where a marriage has been solemnised despite an injunction order passed under section 13 to prohibit the child marriage from taking place.
  • When the child is taken away from their legal guardian by force or deceit are also valid legal grounds for nullifying the marriage.
  • When the child is trafficked for marriage or sold are legal for nullifying the marriage.

Authorities for Reporting Child Marriages

Any person can report an incidence of child marriage before or after it has been solemnised. A complaint can be filed with the below following authorities.

  • Nearby Police station.
  • Metropolitan Magistrate or a Judicial Magistrate of First Class
  • ChildLine/ District Magistrate
  • Child Welfare Committee

Punishments under the Law

Child marriage is an offence punishable with hard imprisonment or with fine or both. The courts can issue injunctions prohibiting solemnisation of child marriages. The offences under the Act are cognisable and are non-bailable. The persons who can be punished under the law includes,

  • Any person who conducts or directs or abets any child marriage.
  • A male adult above 18 years who marries a child
  • Any person having charge of the child, including parent or guardian or any member of the organisation, promoting, permitting, participating in a child marriage or failing to prevent it.

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