Friday, August 06, 2010

Reforms in Family Law Part 2

As promised, Part two of the post is here. To read part one, Click Here.

Restriction on Child Marriage

In our society, the marriage of the child was solemnized in his/her childhood. In fact, at the time of marriage spouses were not aware about the meaning of marriage. The Society has taken serious measures in order to reform this unprincipled custom by restricting the child marriage. Hindus, Christians and Parsis have introduced in their personnel laws that marriage of a boy below the age of 21 years and girl below the age of 18 years as not a valid marriage and hence it is voidable. Muslim law also provides that spouse at the time of marriage should be at puberty. The Government of India has restricted the child marriage and enacted Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929, which considers the act of child marriage as an offense and hence punishable.

According to the provisions of the Act, a child means a person who, if a male, has not completed 21 years of age, and if a female, has not completed 18 years of age. In 1978, certain amendments have been made in the Act, through which the definition of child was redefined, some offenses were made cognizable and further provisions were made for such offense to be tried by the Metropolitan Magistrate or Judicial Magistrate of First Class.

Thus, The Child Marriage (Restraint) Act (CMRA) was enacted in 1929 to prevent the customary practice of child marriage. According to the CMRA’s statements of objects and reasons, the main purpose of this law is to create a check on population growth as it would result in a lower fertility rate, since it reduces the time period of marriages. It was also passed to eliminate potential dangers to the life and health of female children, who cannot withstand the stress and strains of married life, and to avoid early deaths of minor mothers. According to the provisions of this Act, a child marriage is a marriage wherein either of the contracting parties is a child. However, the criminal provisions of this Act do not apply to children.

Some of the significant provisions of the Act are listed herein under:

Section 3: Punishment for male adult below twenty one years of age marrying a child –

Whoever, being a male above eighteen years of age and below twenty one, contracts a child marriage shall be punishable with simple imprisonment which may extend to fifteen days, or with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees, or with both.

Section 4: Punishment for male adult above twenty one years of age marrying a child –

Whoever, being a male above twenty one years of age, contracts a child marriage shall be punishable with simple imprisonment which may extend to three months and shall also be liable to fine.

Section 5: Punishment for solemnizing a child marriage –

Whoever performs, conducts or directs any child marriage shall be punishable with simple imprisonment which may extend to three months and shall also be liable to fine unless he proves that he had reason to believe that the marriage was not a child -marriage.

Section 6: Punishment for parent or guardian concerned in a child marriage –

(1) Where a minor contracts a child marriage, any person having charge of the minor, whether as parent or guardian or in any other capacity, lawful or unlawful, who does any act to promote the marriage or permits it to be solemnised, or negligently fails to prevent it from being solemnised, shall be punishable with simple imprisonment which may extend to three months and shall also be liable to fine.

Provided no woman shall be punishable with imprisonment.

(2) For the purpose of this section, it shall be presumed unless and until the contrary is proved, that where a minor has contracted a child marriage, the person having charge of such minor has negligently failed to prevent marriage from being solemnized.

PS: Part Three is going to be about Polygamy. Stay tuned :)


  1. Once again, you make law sound easy and understandable to common man. Thank you for the same.

    Child marriages are still prevalent. People must be educated about the law, the medical complexities surrounded around it, the social obligations and the stress and economic difficulties surrounding it. But its still some way to go.

  2. WOW, I just saw your profile and read that you are a lawyer...mighty impressed and happy to read ur blog. :)

    And thank you for splitting the law jargon into easily understandable statements. Those jargons really scare me...

  3. At the end of the day, the Act needs to be enforced locally. Therein lies the problem.

    Is it true that a child marriage is legal unless reported within one year of marriage? I have heard this from a couple of people but haven't found any legal backing for it as such. Or is it one of those legal myths?

  4. @ Insignia, I am merely splitting the sections and changing the language a bit..thanks girl..things are changing, no doubt about that..but India is majorly made of the rural area..we need people to educate the uneducated..again, ask any professional whether he/she is ready to educate them for free..nobody will come forward!

    @ Uma, thank god my lawyer tag impressed you and not scared you :)
    Very few understand the legal jargon mainly because of the mindset that law is difficult and complicated :))

    @ Jil, the sad part is that the child marriage is voidable and not void..punishment is also negligible.. what you are saying about reporting the child marriage - I have not heard about it..nor is it mentioned anywhere in the law books..but myth or not, this child marriage thing still happens around us and hardly anybody files a complaint!

  5. hmmm.. i was browsin blogs thru my mobile coz i got bored. and as usual, i came on ur blog. and then, this article!! ur aticles are always interestin to read. but this was needed concentration!! in my break from studyin?!?!?! di!!

    but then, i decided to read it. and yeah, i did understand quite a bit of the stuff that usually goes above my head. now i understand why lawyers are paid so much.

    keep doin well. god forbid i get into trouble, you are the person im comin to :)

    Im waitin to read somethin from u abt honour killings and kaap panchayats. i hate that system. thats ridiculous that it still exists.

    all i know is a few IPC codes and a couple of CrPC codes coz we use them in forensic medicine ;). was nice readin this.i had missed the first part. i came online on my comp to comment coz the last time i commented on a post about 'bloggers comments', it never got posted.. posting comments is a prob from my phone..

    Chandana Shekar

  6. Firstly, no one bothers to report these marriages. Even though the Court has powers to take notice suo moto, one does not see it exercised.

    Also as you rightly say, the voidable part creates a bubble. If it were to be made void, the social implications on the girl child ignorantly married off borders on taboo. Yet again, keeping it voidable makes no sense as the option is never exercised.

    We went for a few legal camps in interior Rajasthan where child marriage is quite prevalent, almost the norm. When informed about the punishment and fine, the mentality was that such things are never enforced and even if enforced, the fine will be borne by the girl's parents.

  7. Insightful. Truly. Looking forward to more. Like Insignia said, you really make it sound very simple.

  8. hi its a friendly visit for a friendly blogger in a frienly manner, thus by dropping here from my blog

    Follow my blog if you like it means

  9. @ Chandana, break from studying and reading a legal article? whoa..even I don't do that ;) lawyers are paid so much as usually people do not put in efforts to read a bit twisted English :P honour killing - I don't know whether I can pull it off or not..yeah there quite a few codes used for read the posts, that's more than enough girl..take care :)

    @ Jil, even if somebody reports, that person is one among 100s supporting action has been taken as there are no evidences..further, a lady cannot be punished under this act if she gets the children married..
    Irony of our legal system - two people enter into a "Contract" of marriage..and first thing we learn about contract is the essential elements of a valid of them clearly says that contract entered into by a minor is void ab initio! and child marriage contract is voidable! wow..that's how our law works..and since 2005, registration of marriage is compulsory too, still these laws are not amended as per the basic contract principles! I can go on and on about this topic, so will stop here :P
    Rajasthan - wow, sounds interesting..such visits help us na? fine and punishment - again, such nominal punishments!
    thanks :)

    @ Sudhi, thanks a lot buddy :)

    @ Maubrey, welcome's an honour to have you on this space..I am too small a person to follow a great blog like yours sir..:)

  10. The law is very clear yet in rural parts girls are still being married off at 16. But it is good to know that we have a clear law about child marriage. I just wish it is implemented just as clearly.

    Good post:-)

  11. Informative and insightful.. wonderful post.. Didn't know about the nature of consequences of child marriage..:)

  12. This series is becoming real interesting. Laws simplified for commoner.
    The insignificant fine the crime of child marriage attracts abets it. The helpnessness that surrounds the girls parents (like financial burden, unemployment, hunger, addiction, crop failure etc.) is the main reason. Most of the time, they wish the girl a better life once she is married off, although we do come across cases where the ceremony is done out of fear( of community, other harms like a harsh society that has no respect for the girl's life, adverse financial and food situation at home etc). It is very vicious.
    The grassroot level social workers can effect a change. if better life and chances are proved to the community, it will change customs.The feeling of insecurity will be past. The law violation will be less.

  13. We may have many laws in place, but unless the laymen (that includes the illiterate and rural/conservative population) know about it, crimes/offences such as child marriage will continue to be practiced.

    It's astounding to note that the punishment is so negligible!

  14. Its shocking that people in rural areas get their daughters married at a very young age..what's worse is that they get them married to even frogs thinking that it would bring showers to the village.

    And the punishment is very simple...just 3 months of imprisonment, thats all??? Iske liye toh 3 yrs bhi kam hain

    P.S: looking forward eagerly for the polygamy post.

  15. Thank you for explaining the act and the provisions so well.I think,the problem lies when it comes to implementation.In states like Haryana and Rajasthan the practice of child marriage still exists.I think what needs to be done is to educate those in smaller towns and may be take help of local Panchayat.
    Neha,I take a lot of interest in matters concerning law though I am not a lawyer.I did spend some time with Mr Talwar of Crawford Bailey.

  16. Hm... As usuall we do not care of the male gender . We do not even think of it