September 26, 2021 2:10:34 am
The National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights Saturday asked the Rajasthan state government to reconsider the provisions of the Rajasthan Compulsory Registration of Marriages (Amendment) Bill 2021, recently passed by the Assembly. It said the Bill gives legitimacy to child marriages and is in contravention of several child protection laws.
NCPCR Chairperson Priyank Kanoongo Saturday wrote to Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, pointing out that the provisions of the Bill may have a serious impact on the “physical, psychological, social and education of minors in the state”.
“The Rajasthan government is demolishing the work that Mahatma Gandhi had done against child marriages. We will not allow this to happen. It is in direct contravention to child rights in the country and the NCPCR will approach the Supreme Court against this Bill if need be,’’ Kanoongo told The Sunday Express.
“The Commission would like to state that the Prohibition of Child Marriage act, 2006 is the central Act which prohibits solemnisation of child marriages and constitutes child marriages by a male adult with a girl child as an offence under Section 9. Section 10 of the Act further provides that whoever performs, conducts, directs or abets any child marriage shall be punishable with rigorous imprisonment which may extend to two years and shall be liable to fine which may exceed Rs 1 lakh unless he proves that he has reason to believe that the marriage was not a child marriage,’’ Kanoongo has said in his letter.
Section 11 of the Prohibition of Child Marriages Act also provides punishment for promoting or solemnising of child marriages and Section 12 holds that any marriage solemnised by deceit, force or enticement of a minor, is held void. All offences under the Act are cognizable and non-bailable.
Under the Juvenile Justice Act Section 2 (14, xii), a girl child who is in imminent risk of marriage before the age of 18 years is a “child in need of care and protection”. The JJ Act further says that efforts must be made to ensure the care, protection, appropriate rehabilitation or restoration of a girl child who is at imminent risk of marriage and therefore a child in need of protection.
“This move by the Rajasthan government is in clear contravention of all these existing laws. It is clear that this Bill is entirely politically motivated to satisfy vote banks,” Kanoongo said.
While Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot could not be reached for comments, his Officer on Special Duty (OSD), Lokesh Sharma, had said that “registration of marriage in itself is not a proof that the marriage is valid.”
Sharma had cited a 2006 Supreme Court judgement in Seema vs Ashwani Kumar case to say that registration of every marriage is “compulsory”.
During the debate on the Bill in the Assembly, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Shanti Dhariwal said that the Bill “nowhere says that underage marriages will be legal”.
— With ENS inputs from Jaipur
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