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New Rajasthan law validates child marriage; and Congress is facing flak for it

Rajasthan government's move to pass a bill that legalises child marriages by making the registration of such marriages mandatory has sparked off a major controversy and an appeal to Chief Justice of India NV Ramana.

New Rajasthan law validates child marriage; and Congress is facing flak for it VPN
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Jaipur, First Published Sep 20, 2021, 4:20 PM IST
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Rajasthan government's move to pass a bill that legalises child marriages by making the registration of such marriages mandatory has sparked off a major controversy and an appeal to Chief Justice of India NV Ramana.

On Monday, Delhi High Court advocate Yukti Rathi wrote to Chief Justice Ramana urging him to suo motu cognizance of the bill passed in the Rajasthan assembly on Friday which amended the Rajasthan Compulsory Registration of Marriages Act, 2009.

Stating that the new legislation was ultra vires and in contradiction to the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, the advocate reminded that the Chief Justice of India that the Supreme Court had always taken suo motu cognizance of issues related to the protection of rights of children.

Section 8 of the new Act states that if the girl's age at the time of marriage is less than 18 years and the boy's age is less than 21, then her parents will have to inform the block or district marriage registration officer within 30 days. The 2009 version of the law limited the age to 21 years for both.

The Bill had been passed with a voice vote amid protests by the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party which termed it as a black chapter in the history of the assembly.

Experts have been quick to point out that Supreme Court judgment in the Independent Thought Vs Union of India 2017 laid down that sexual intercourse by a man with his wife who is less than 18 years of age amounts to rape under the Indian Penal Code. They said that the Bill passed in the Rajasthan assembly clearly violates that Apex court judgment.

The issue also took the social media space by storm.

The Rajasthan government, meanwhile, is defending the Bill stating that the clause does not explicitly mention that child marriage was valid and that the District Collector could still take action against such marriage.

However, the question persists: why have the clause altogether if the intent is not to lend validity to child marriage?

The recently-released NCRB data found a sharp jump in child marriages during the Covid-hit 2020. The records showed that 785 cases were registered across the country under the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act in 2020, the highest in Karnataka at 184.

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