KOCHI: The High Court has directed the state government to take adequate measures to mobilise the Child Marriage Prohibition Officers to effectively carry out the functions as mandated under Section 16 of the Prohibition Act- 2006 to create awareness and sensitise communities on the evils of child marriage.
The prohibition officer must take pro-active measures to detect proposed child marriages and intervene in such cases. The officer should also bring it to the notice of the Judicial Magistrates so that appropriate orders can be passed by them.
The bench observed that it was the duty of the Marriage Prohibition Officers to prevent solemnization of child marriages by taking such action as he/she may deem fit.It was also his responsibility to advise or counsel the residents of the locality not to indulge in promoting, helping, aiding or allowing the solemnization of child marriages besides creating awareness on the evils of child marriages.
A Division Bench headed by the Chief Justice issued the order on a petition filed by Punarajani Charitable Trust, Kozhikode, Susheela Gopalan Memorial Society for Gender and Legal Studies, Thiruvananthapuram, All India Lawyers Union and Balasangam, the children’s wing of the CPM, challenging the circular regarding registration of child marriages.
According to the petitioners, the circular facilitates registration of illegal marriages as it directs registration of marriages, irrespective of their validity.The new circular issued by Local Administration Department Principal Secretary directs civic bodies to register marriages of Muslim males aged below 21 and females between 18 and 16 years, which were solemnised till June 27, 2013. It contended that unless and until there was a specific directive to the officers concerned to prosecute those involved in child marriages, their registration would be a retrogressive action in furtherance of promoting child marriages.
However, the High Court bench said they were unable to accept the arguments by the petitioners that the circulars would fail the objectives of the Act.As a matter of fact, the registration of even child marriages, in our perception, would ensure that there is better transparency and adequate proof to penalise the offenders under the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, said the bench .