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Going Back In Time? Rajasthan Govt Amends Marriage Act, Allows Child Marriage Registration

The amendment mentions that parents and guardians of a bride who is under 18, and a groom who is under 21 'shall be responsible to submit a memorandum, as may be prescribed, within 30 days of solemnisation of the marriage'.

The Ashok Gehlot-led Rajasthan government passed an amendment for Rajasthan Compulsory Marriage Registration Act, 2009, which the Opposition had claimed 'legitimises child marriage'. The new Rajasthan Compulsory Marriage Amendment Bill, 2021, mentions that the couple can apply for marriage registration to the registration officer of the place where they reside within 30 days of their marriage. Moreover, the parents and guardians can get the marriage registered within 30 days if the groom is under 21 years of age and the bride is under 18 years.

District Collector Can Take Action Against Child Marriage

The main Opposition— the Bhartiya Janata Party has opposed the law. LiveMint quoted the State Opposition Leader as saying, "I think this law is completely wrong. The legislators who have passed it have not seen it. Section 8 of the bill violates the present law in force against the child marriages". However, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Shanti Dhariwal emphasised that the bill does not say that child marriage is valid; it mentions that only registration is necessary after the marriage. He also mentioned that if the district collector wants, they are in power to take action against child marriage.

Other Officers Authorised To Register Marriages

The Child Marriage Act passed by the Centre in 2006, enabled provisions to prohibit child marriage, protect and provide relief to the victims and promote punishment for those who solemnise the union. Previously, only the district marriage registration officer (DMRO) was authorised to register marriages. The new bill empowers the additional DMRO and block DMRO to register the marriages. The party leader said that registration is mandatory even if the marriage of underage individuals is solemnized.

The Parliamentary Affairs Minister said that the new amendment is not a violation of the previous act since the Supreme Court also mentioned that marriage registration is mandatory even if one of the partners is minor and the other is not. Meanwhile, the apex child rights body National Commission for Protection of Child Rights said it would examine the bill.

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