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Thursday, October 21, 2021

Rajasthan Assembly amends marriage registration law, opposition says justifies child weddings

The Rajasthan Compulsory Registration of Marriages (Amendment) Bill, 2021 amends the Rajasthan Compulsory Registration of Marriages Act, 2009.

Written by Hamza Khan | Jaipur |
Updated: September 18, 2021 9:47:20 am
The Opposition MLAs objected to the amendment, saying that it should be done away with. (File)

Amid opposition by the BJP, the Rajasthan Assembly on Friday passed a Bill to amend a 2009 Act on mandatory registration of marriages, including child marriages.

The Rajasthan Compulsory Registration of Marriages (Amendment) Bill, 2021 amends the Rajasthan Compulsory Registration of Marriages Act, 2009. While earlier, only the District Marriage Registration Officer (DMRO) was authorised to register the marriages, the Bill passed on Friday empowers the government to appoint Additional DMRO and Block MRO to register marriages.

However, the Opposition raised an issue with the amendment of Section 8 of the 2009 Act. The 2021 amendment states that the parents or guardians of a bridegroom who is under 21 and a bride who is under 18, “shall be responsible to submit the memorandum, in such manner, as may be prescribed, within a period of thirty days from the date of solemnisation of the marriage to the Registrar.”

The Opposition MLAs objected to the amendment, saying that it should be done away with. The 2009 Act had stated the same, with the only difference being that the age mentioned was 21 years for both boys and girls.

Independent MLA Sanyam Lodha said that the Bill “justifies child marriage, it is wrong, against the people. There is now an abundance of people who educate their children and don’t like child marriages. But if you justify child marriages, this will send a wrong marriage before the nation. The Rajasthan Assembly will be humiliated before the entire nation.”

Considered close to Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, Lodha said that through his actions and through his life, Gehlot has helped form a progressive image of the government, so the Bill should not be passed and that “progressive” image of the state be maintained.

Leader of Opposition Gulab Chand Kataria said that the state is formulating a law which is against the Child Marriage Act. “Back then too, you had used the same words as now…you are authorising minor kids to get married. The only restriction is that their kin have to inform within 30 days.”

“We made a mistake once and now we are repeating it,” Kataria said, and apologised for the 2009 Act saying that he was a member of the Assembly back then too. “If minor kids get married and the state gives them a certificate as per law then how is this correct?” he said, asking what will the punishment be if the kin of married underage kids don’t give information.

Parliamentary Affairs minister Shanti Dhariwal said that the Bill “nowhere says that underage marriages will be legal.”

“Even if a marriage among underage children is held, its registration is mandatory. However, the Bill doesn’t make the marriage legal and the District Collector can take action against them,” Dhariwal said, adding that the Bill doesn’t go against the central Act either. He also said that in 2006, the Supreme Court had ruled that registering marriage is mandatory, whether one is minor or not.

The Bill also adds a provision enabling a widow or a widower, or their children, parents or kin in case both have died, to register their marriage within thirty days of the death. Dhariwal said that in absence of a marriage certificate, a widow is often deprived of access to various schemes and so the amendment will be a step towards resolving the same.

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