'7-yr jail for child marriages too harsh'

'7-yr jail for child marriages too harsh'
The Supreme Court on Wednesday said that it will be too harsh to apply the minimum punishment of seven years jail as mandated under the rape laws to the cases of child marriages.

The apex court said such marriages are voidable, but not void. It, however, asked the Centre to inform as to how many prosecutions have taken place in the last three years for child marriages.

The court also sought to know how many child marriage prohibition officers have been appointed under the Child Marriage Prohibition Act, 2006.

A bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta also asked Gaurav Agrawal, appearing for NGO Independent Thought, to provide more information with regard to the health of girls who are married off at the age of 15 to 18 years.

Agrawal relied upon the 2011 and 2014 reports of the Unicef and the Committee on the Rights of the Child, respectively, to highlight the poor health condition of the girl child, who had suffered underage marriage.

The NGO also sought direction for amendment of Section 375 (rape) of the Indian Penal Code which makes an exception on age of consent of wife for sexual relations with her husband.

The exception in Section 375, amended by the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 2013, stated that “sexual intercourse or sexual acts by a man with his own wife, the wife not being under 15 years of age, is not rape.”

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