PIL Filed In Bombay High Court For Effective Implementation Of Marriage Prevention Act In Maharashtra

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Mumbai, 1st April 2022: A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) for proper implementation of the Child Marriage Prevention Act, 2006 was filed by Vitthal Bade, Nandini Jadhav, Ranjana Gawande, Satyabhama Saundarmal, Pravin Kadam, Sachin Khedkar and various other activists from different parts of the state through advocates Asim Sarode and his legal team on 22nd March.

The PIL has highlighted the fact that due to the absence of Rules, the victims are suffering. On the other hand, the officers of the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) also need to be held accountable for not implementing the law. Thus Ministry Of Women and Child Development Department, Ministry of Social Justice, Ministry Of Education, Director General of Police and Maharashtra State Commission for the Protection of Child Rights are all made respondents in this PIL. As per the petitioners, the absence of specific Rules has become a reason for the rise in the number of child marriages throughout the State.

According to the WCD, there were no child marriages between the years 2016 and 2019 but the petitioners have submitted reports along with the PIL which show various FIRs and complaints of many incidences of child marriages in tribal belts and backward regions of the State. Such documented evidence received under RTI has been submitted before the court. The PIL demanded an urgent formulation of Rules for the effective implementation of the 2006 Act.

The PIL has claimed that in the absence of Rules, almost one lakh child marriages are taking place every year in the State. The PIL has also sought the formulation of a system to rescue such victims, prohibit marriages and take penal action against parents to stop this menace.

The PIL refers to an incident in Ahmednagar wherein a minor girl, who was married off, escaped from her in-law’s home after being subjected to physical abuse and returned to her father’s house. However, the father also tried to physically torture her when she went to the police.

The PIL stated that rather than taking any action against the minor’s parents or in-laws, the police asked them to refrain from physically abusing the minor and brushed the matter under the carpet. Thereafter, the minor was subjected to further abuse, which made her run away, only to be further abused and get pregnant. Only after she was admitted to a district hospital, did her ordeal end.

In light of the incident and data collected through queries under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, the PIL states that it has come to light that the police are usually reluctant to take action and, in some instances, don’t want to intervene as they do not want to disrupt the customary practices of the people of the locality.

The claim in the PIL about child marriages taking place in the State has been corroborated by the State government in other petitions related to malnutrition deaths in tribal areas. While admitting to the same, the State government had informed the bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Makarand Karnik that steps were being taken to create awareness of the pitfalls of child marriages among the tribal belts and backward sections of the society.

Reliefs are sought in the PIL that for effective implementation of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 specific Rules must be formulated and published by the State government in the stipulated time. Some important measures are suggested in the PIL that the Director General Of Police, State Government, Women and Child Development Ministry and Social Justice Department will not only register the FIR but also initiate the process of cancelation of child marriage and keep its record. The State Government will formulate a committee inclusive of all respondents along with the representative of the NGO to draft Standard Operating Process (SOP) for implementation of the Act.

With this Standard Operating Process special and separate child marriage prohibition officers will be appointed with defined duties along with its structure and punishment will be mentioned for dereliction of duties by the child marriage Prohibition officer appointed under the Act. It has also been prayed that the handling of the cases relating to child marriages duties of the police officer should be defined with the directions by the High Court. A rehabilitation centre should be established and economic aid should be provided for the victims of child marriage. All this relief is sought in the PIL.

Petitioner’s counsel Asim Sarode said, “In absence of specific Rules and effective law Hon’ble High Court has the constitutional power to formulate guidelines for safeguarding the right of the victims of child marriage.”

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