Plea filed before Bombay HC against non-implementation of child marriage prohibition laws in Maharashtra

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A public interest litigation has been filed before the Bombay High Court raising issues related to child marriages in Maharashtra and non-implementation of Prohibition of Child Marriage Act (PCMA).

The petition filed through advocates Asim Sarode and Ajinkya Udane pointed out that a large number of child marriage go unreported and the actual number of such marriages are much higher than the official figures.

The plea stated that the effects of early marriage has devastating consequences on a girl’s life:

Child brides are frequently deprived for their rights to health, education and participation;

Girls married young are far less likely to stay in school, with lifelong economic impacts;

Child brides are also at greater risk of experiencing dangerous complications in pregnancy and childbirth, contracting HIV/AIDS and suffering domestic violence;

Forced pregnancy and child bearing at a young age leads to medical complications for the girl.

The plea suggested certain solutions for effective implementation of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act.

Appointment of exclusive officers throughout the State;

Observations by such exclusive officers be given judicial importance, and be the basis for investigation and registering offences under PCMA;

Need to provide legal sanction to the existence of persons or group of organisations who would assist the specially appointed officer for implementation of PCMA;

Role of police officers need to be amplified in child marriage cases; and

Requirement to include Special Juvenile Police Unit (SJPU) with special directions to them to work in co-ordination with various authorities.

“This social evil must be rooted out through the legal method, with stricter penal provisions and accountability checks for authorities established under PCA,” the plea said.

Child marriage limits young girls’ skills, resources, knowledge, social support, mobility and autonomy, and make them extremely vulnerable to domestic violence, abuse and abandonment, it was contended.

The plea claimed that since about 1 lakh child marriages of minor girls have been performed in Maharashtra it is important to involve the State Child Rights Commissions in order to implement the law in all 36 districts of Maharashtra.

The PIL, therefore, sought the following reliefs:

Frame and declare set of rules to implement PCMA;

Direct registration of offences of child marriages but initiate process of cancellation of child marriages and keep its record;

High Court may frame guidelines based on some implementable solutions suggested to make PCMA effective;

Direct to form a committee along with members of Child Line and other NGOs to draft Standard Operating Procedure to properly implement the Act.

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