- Recently a bill to amend the Rajasthan Compulsory Registration of Marriages Act, 2009 had passed in the State Assembly.
- The Bill has sought to amend Sections 5 and 8 of the Rajasthan Compulsory Registration of Marriages Act, 2009, dealing with the appointment of Marriage Registration Officers and the duty of parties to a marriage to submit the memorandum for registration.
- The amendment authorises the women above 18 years to provide information of their marriage on their own.
REASONS IN SUPPORT OF THE BILL
- The State government had stated that the Amendment Bill had been brought to protect legal rights of children, stop multiple marriages and take care of the matters related to maintenance and inheritance.
- Further it had added that, “Registration of child marriages is not meant to legitimise them. Every minor has the right to get his or her marriage annulled upon becoming major.”
- The original law itself did not exclude registration of child marriages.
- The Rajasthan law enacted in 2009 provided for compulsory registration of all marriages. It is largely similar to the enactments in other States, and is based on the Supreme Court’s judgement of 2006 in Seema vs. Ashwini Kumar, which had made it compulsory to register all marriages, including child marriages, of Indian citizens.
- The Registrars of Marriage report about child marriages to the District Collector for appropriate action on getting the memorandum for registration.
- The bill has generated a controversy with the Opposition charging that it will validate child marriages.
- While the Act of 2009 stated that the parents or guardians of the bride and bridegroom were responsible to submit the memorandum if both the boy and the girl had not completed the age of 21 years, the latest amendment reduces the age of bride to 18 years for casting the duty on parents to report about the marriage to the Registration Officer within 30 days of the union.
- Rajasthan had emerged as the State with the highest incidence of child marriage both among boys, which was 8.6%, and girls, which was 8.3%, in the 2011 Census.
- According to the National Family Health Survey-4 data collected in 2015-16, 16.2% of the girls aged 15 to 19 years were married before the age of 18 in the State, with variations across districts.
- Thus, with recent amended provisions will only streamline the registration process, without changing the status of nuptial ties of minors.
- Even the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has sought a review of the bill, in view of its likely impact on minor children.
SIGNIFICANCE OF REGISTERING ALL MARRIAGES FOR ABOVE 18
- Under the law, child marriages are not void, but only voidable at the instance of one of the parties, who may approach the court for nullifying the marriage within two years of attaining majority.
- Registering such a marriage may help establish the legal rights of the underage party and those of any children born and deter any attempt to deny the marriage later.
- It may even help prosecution of those solemnising child marriages and implement provisions relating to maintenance and residence of the girl whose marriage is invalidated later.
- It must be noted that even the Supreme Court observed that even though registration itself could not be proof of a valid marriage as such, but it would have “great evidentiary value in the matters of custody of children, right of children born from the wedlock of the two persons whose marriage is registered and the age of parties to the marriage”.
- As a fallout of this controversy, Parliament ought to consider the Law Commission’s recommendation to amend the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006, to make child marriages below 16 years void, and those solemnised when either party was between 16 and 18, voidable.