The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 prohibits solemnization of marriage of a boy who is less than 21 years of age arid a girl who is less than 18 years of age.
The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act 2006 came into force on 1 November 2007 in India. In October 2017, Supreme Court of India gave a landmark judgement criminalising sex with a child bride, hence removing an exception in India’s criminal jurisprudence which had until then viewed the consummation of marriage with minor wife as legal.
Structure of the Act
This Act consists of 21 sections. It extends all over India and renoncants (those who reject the local laws and accept French law) of the Union territory of Pondichery.
- Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 envisages preventing child marriages with enhanced punishments of rigorous imprisonment for two years and/or fine of INR 1 lakh.
- It defines a child to mean a male below 21 years and female below 18 years. A minor is defined as a person who has not attained the age of majority as per the Majority Act.
- There are provisions for maintenance of the girl child. The husband is liable to pay the maintenance in case he is a major. In case the husband is a minor, his parents would be liable to pay the maintenance.
- The legal status of a child marriage is voidable at the option of the parties. However, if the consent is obtained by fraud, deceit or if the child is enticed away from his lawful guardians and if the sole purpose is to use the child for trafficking or other immoral purposes, the marriage would be void.
- The Act also provides for the appointment of a Child Marriage Prohibition officer whose duties are to prevent child marriages and spread awareness regarding the same.
Provision for maintenance and residence of female
The District Court while granting annulment of the child marriage, make an interim or final order directing the male contracting party, to pay maintenance to the female contracting party. If the male contracting party is minor, then the court shall direct the parents/guardian to the minor, to pay maintenance to the female contracting party.The female contracting party is entitled to get maintenance up to her remarriage. The amount of maintenance may be paid monthly or in lump sum. The quantum of maintenance shall be determined considering the needs of the child, life style enjoyed by her and means of income of the paying party. The District court may also issue suitable order as to the residence of female contracting party.
District court shall make appropriate order for the custody of the children of such child marriage and while making such order of custody, the court issue order taking in to account of the welfare and best interest of the child of such marriage. The court shall also make appropriate orders of maintenance and issue visitation orders also.
Child begotten or conceived of such child marriage shall be deemed to be legitimate children not withstanding such marriage is annulled by the court.
Court has power to add modify or revoke any order made under S. 3, 4 and 5, i.e., with respect to maintenance, residence, when there is change in circumstances.
For getting maintenance and residence of female contracting party or child born in such marriage and for custody of children, application can be moved before the district court having jurisdiction where
- The defendant / child resides,
- where marriage was solemnized or
- where the parties last resided or
- where the petitioner is residing on the date of presentation of petition.
Offences and punishment under this Act
- Punishment for male adult: If an adult male who is above 18 years of age contracts child marriage, he shall be punishable with rigorous imprisonment for 2 years or with fine which may extend to one lakh rupees or both.
- Punishment for solemnizing marriage: If a person performs, conducts, directs or abets any child marriage, he shall be punishable with rigorous imprisonment for 2 years or with fine which may extend to one lakh rupees or both.
- Punishment for promoting / permitting solemnization of marriage: Any person having charge of the child whether parent or guardian or any other person including member of organization or association of persons who does any act to promote the passing or permit child marriage or negligently fails to prevent it from being solemnized, including attending or participating such marriage, shall be punishable with rigorous imprisonment for 2 years or with fine which may extend to one lakh rupees or both.
Offence under this Act is cognizable and non bailable.
When marriage is null and void
Marriage will be null and void in the following circumstances
- Where minor child is taken or enticed out of the keeping legal guardian
- By force compelled or by any deceitful means induced to go from any place
- Is sold for purpose of marriage and go through a form of marriage or if the minor is married after which the minor is sold off or trafficked or used for immoral purpose
Such marriage shall be null and void