'SC on Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006’
Polity & Governance
14th Jan, 2020
In a recent judgement, the Supreme Court has held that that the anti-child marriage law does not intend to punish a male aged between 18 and 21 years for marrying a “female adult”.
Supreme Court’s stand:
- A Bench led by Justice Mohan M. Shantanagoudar was interpreting Section 9 of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006, which says:
“Whoever, being a male adult above 18 years of age, contracts a child marriage shall be punishable with rigorous imprisonment which may extend to two years or with fine which may extend to one lakh rupees or with both.”
- The court said neither does the provision punish a child for marrying a woman nor a woman for marrying a male child.
- The sole objective of the provision is to punish a man for marrying a minor girl. “The intention behind punishing only male adults contracting child marriages is to protect minor girls,”
- The 2006 Act also gives an option for prospective grooms who are between 18 and 21 years old to opt-out of marriages.
- The case at hand concerned a boy who married a 21-year-old woman when he was 17 years old.
- The Punjab and Haryana High Court had set aside its own order providing protection to the couple and initiated prosecution against the boy for contracting a child marriage, in which he himself was the child.
- The Supreme Court set aside the HC order, saying the intent behind Section 9 was not to punish a child for contracting a child marriage.
What is the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006?
- The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 (PCMA, 2006) recognises child marriage as valid but “voidable” at the option of the minor involved the amendment will make all future child marriages in the country invalid from the outset.
- The Act in its current form makes the marriage of a man who is over 18 years with a woman under 18 a cognisable and a non-bailable offence punishable with imprisonment of two years and a fine of Rs 1 lakh but recognises the union as valid.
- The following persons can be punished under the Law include:
- Whoever performs, conducts or directs or abets any child marriage (Section 10, PCMA 2006)
- A male adult above 18 years marrying a child (Section 9, PCMA 2006)
- Any person having charge of the child, including –
- parent or guardian
- any member of organisation or association, promoting, permitting, participating in a child marriage or failing to prevent it (Section 11, PCMA 2006).