SC interpreted anti child marriage
The anti-child marriage law does not intend to punish a male aged between 18 and 21 years for marrying a “female adult,” the Supreme Court has held in a recent judgment. 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 latter because “in a society like ours, decisions regarding marriage are usually taken by the family members of the bride and groom, and women generally have little say in the matter.”
- 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 court reasoned.
- It said 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.