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'Shields The Solemnization Of Marriages Of Children': Plea In Supreme Court Challenges Section 8 of Rajasthan Compulsory Registration of Marriages (Amendment) Bill, 2021

Aaratrika Bhaumik
24 Sep 2021 6:01 AM GMT
Shields The Solemnization Of Marriages Of Children: Plea In Supreme Court Challenges Section 8 of Rajasthan Compulsory Registration of Marriages (Amendment) Bill, 2021
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A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) petition has been filed in the Supreme Court challenging the constitutional validity of Section 8 of the Rajasthan Compulsory Registration of Marriages (Amendment) Bill, 2021 so far as it permits the registration of child marriages. The Rajasthan State Assembly last week passed the aforementioned bill to amend a 2009 Act [Rajasthan Compulsory Registration...

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A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) petition has been filed in the Supreme Court challenging the constitutional validity of Section 8 of the Rajasthan Compulsory Registration of Marriages (Amendment) Bill, 2021 so far as it permits the registration of child marriages.

The Rajasthan State Assembly last week passed the aforementioned bill to amend a 2009 Act [Rajasthan Compulsory Registration of Marriages Act] which provides for mandatory registration of marriages, including child marriages. Pursuant to Section 8 of the 2009 Act, it is the duty of parties to submit a Memorandum for registration of marriage to the Registrar within whose jurisdiction the marriage is solemnized.

In essence, both, the Act of 2009 and the proposed amendment to the Act, make the registration of child marriage mandatory with the only difference being that in the 2009 Act, the age mentioned was 21 years for both boys and girls, whereas, the amendment bill seeks to differentiate between the age of bride and bridegroom.

Till date, the procedure laid down was that if the parties (bride or groom) had not completed the age of 21 then their parents or their guardians had to submit the memorandum. However, now if the amendment bill becomes an act, then the law would be that if the bride has not completed 18 years of age and/or the groom has not completed 21 years of age, then their parents or their guardians have the duty to submit the memorandum.

The petition has been moved by 'Youth Bar Association of India', an association of public spirited, young and vigilant advocates of India. The association is also registered under the Society Registration Act, 1860 and is often involved in matters concerning the welfare of the public at large.

"The Statement of Objects and Reasons for amending section 8 as is apparent from the said Bill, is that "if parties to the marriage have not completed the age of marriage, the parents or guardians shall be responsible to submit the memorandum within a prescribed period…", which means that the Rajasthan Government intends to permit child marriage by giving it a back door entry, which is otherwise illegal and impermissible under law.", the petition contended.

It was further submitted that although the petitioner is not against the registration of marriages per se, however permitting the registration of 'child marriages/ would lead to a 'dangerous situation' and may further facilitate instances of child abuse.

"Our country is a 'welfare state' and the Governments owes an obligation to work for the welfare of the nation. Children must be the paramount consideration, who happens to be the resources of a developing nation", it was further argued. 

Furthermore, referring to Section 8 of the Bill, the petition averred that the Bill 'shields the solemnization of the marriages of children, having not completed the marriageable age.' It was further asserted that such a Bill would defeat the purpose of "The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006" which had been enacted to curb such incidents of child marriage.

"Permitting registration of 'child marriage' would be detrimental to a civilised society, as it tantamount to give legality to permit the parties, who have not attained the marriageable age to solemnise the marriage, which is otherwise not permissible and is punishable offence as envisaged under section 9 of "The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006". The object behind it is to punish a male adult above eighteen years of age, who contracts marriage with a minor girl. The punishment prescribed under section 9 is rigorous imprisonment which may extend to two years or with fine, which may extend to one lakh rupees or with both. The legislative intend appears to effectively deal with this vital issue and to prevent child abuse", the plea further averred.

Questioning the legislative competency to enact such a Bill, the plea submitted that registration of marriages would come within the ambit of the expression "vital statics" in Schedule VII List III Entry 30 of the Constitution of India. Therefore, the State Government does not have legislative competence of the vital issue relating to the compulsory registration of marriage, it was contended futher. 

Advocates Sanpreet Singh Ajmani, Ms. Anjali Chauhan and Ms. Bably Singh along with AOR Ms. Manju Jetley will be appearing for the Petitioner.

Case Title: Youth Bar Association v. Union of India


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