The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006

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The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 was enacted on 10th January, 2007. The act extends to all Indians and includes residents as well as non residents. Hindu marriage Act, 1955 governs marriages in India, since the act does not prohibits child marriage  (such marriages are merely voidable) child marriages were rampant and there was no legislation in order to prevent this social menace, thus inorder to prevent such marriages between non consenting minors the Act was legislated.

Section 2 of the act lays important definitions of terms such as child, child marriage, minor, contracting party and district court. Child shall mean a person below 21 years of age in case of male and below 18 years of age incase of female; child marriage shall mean a marriage wherein parties to marriage are child; minor shall mean a person who has not attained majority as per provisions of Majority Act, 1875; contracting party shall mean and include both the child whose marriage is solemnized and district court shall mean family court established under Family Courts Act, in areas where there are no Family court civil court of original jurisdiction.

Since marriages under Hindu Marriage is a sacrament therefore the Act does not make child marriage as void but merely declares it as voidable at the option of parties i.e. either of the child. The child shall have to file a decree of nullity in district court where-after the marriage shall be annulled. The petition of nullity of marriage of minor shall be filed through his guardian or his next friend. Such petition shall be filed anytime within two years of minor attaining majority. The court while deciding on petition annulling marriage shall also pass decision directing parties to reimburse all valuables in cash and kind.

Section 4 of the Act provides for maintenance to female contracting party in child marriage. The court shall give directions to male contracting party to pay maintenance to the female child, in case male is minor the families shall pay maintenance. Quantum of maintenance shall vary as per lifestyle of the female child and maintenance shall be paid in part or lump-sum.

Incase an issue is born out of the wedlock between contracting parties; the court shall also fix maintenance and guardian ship right over such child. Incase a child is born or conceived at the time of filing petition the child shall deemed to be legitimate child born out of wedlock. District court shall have jurisdiction over all the matters concerning child marriage and also in case of child born out of such marriage under section 8 of the Act.

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Marriage contracted by a male child above eighteen years of age contracting a child marriage shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment extending to two years or fine extending to one lakh rupees or with both. The Act also lays punishment for persons aiding and abetting child marriage, such person shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment extending to two years and with fine extending to one lakh rupees. Act also lays punishment for parents, in-charge or guardians of child who fails to prevent child marriage, permits child marriage, prepares or attends child marriage shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment extending to two years and with fine extending to one lakh rupees.

Marriage of minor shall be void under section 12, incase the marriage is cause by enticing, deceiving, forcing or by selling a child for immoral purposes. Such marriage shall be null and void. Magistrate under section 13 has power to grant stay or injunction incase of child marriage on receiving of reasonable information from any source and court shall also act suo-motu. Child marriage contravening injunction orders shall be void.

The state shall appoint child marriage probation officer by notification in official gazette who shall either be a social worker or an officer of gram panchayat or municipality. It shall be duty of officer to collect information, create awareness, and inform authorities against child marriage.  The Probation officer appointed shall be government servant. Offence committed under the act shall be cognizable and non bailable.

The Act aims to curb a deep rooted social menace prevalent in many parts of the country in shape of child marriage.

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by Vibhuti Nakta.