SC quizzes govt on child marriage prohibition

SC quizzes govt on child marriage prohibition

The Supreme Court has issued notice to the Union government on a plea by an NGO to appoint child marriage prohibition officers in states to prevent underage marriages, affecting health of the girls.

A bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Sanjay Kishan Kaul sought a response from the Centre on a petition filed by advocate Gaurav Agrawal on behalf of NGO 'Independent Thought'.

The petitioner submitted that a girl child of less than 18 years should not be married off at all, as it leads to sexual assault or infringement of her body and mind and violation of the provisions of Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO).

Though it has adverse health effects and disrupts the education of the girl child, such marriages still are the order of the day due to lack of effective implementation of Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006, the petitioner contended.

“The implementation of Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 is dependent on the pivotal role of a Child Marriage Prohibition Officer (CMPO), as provided under Section 16. However, there are no guidelines or need-based planning on this important aspect. The numbers of CMPOs in a state vary in the range of one CMPO per district in West Bengal (a high child marriage prevalence state) to above 1,850 CMPO per district in Karnataka,” it said.

The petitioner submitted that in view of a serious inconsistency in implementation of law, there was an urgent need for intervention and strategic planning in the country to eliminate this violation of rights of girl children in the country, due to child marriages.

Notably, the top court had on October 11, 2017 held that a man's act of indulging in sex with a minor wife would amount to rape. In a landmark ruling on a PIL by the same petitioner, the top court had then read down exception 2 to Section 375 (rape) of the Indian Penal Code that allowed a man to have sexual relations with his wife above 15 years of age.