The new Amendment in the Rajasthan compulsory registration act has drawn a new controversy in the country. Some opine that it is a way to legalize child marriages in the state that has been made illegal over the years. However, the government is adamant that the amendment in no way tries to legalize or validate child marriages and the change gives no reason for criticizing.
The government might review and reconsider the legal frame for outlawing child marriages that have continued to take place despite a prohibition. This decision can be made after the opposition and the National Commission for protection of child rights raised the issues of continuing child marriages in Rajasthan.
A law was passed in 2009 for the compulsory registration of marriages in Rajasthan. This law was made mandatory after the Seema Vs Ashwani Kumar case in 2007. It was directed by the Supreme Court to all the states to make a law mandating the registration of all marriages.
In the original law, there is no separate registration of child marriages. So, the provision of the amendment has only changed the age at which the responsibility to register changes from the parents or guardians to the parties. Initially, the parties were responsible to submit a memorandum of their marriage to the registrar if they were of age 21 or above. In case they are below 21 then the parents or guardians are responsible for submitting the memorandum. But, after the new amendment, the age limit has been changed to 21 for men and 18 for women.
According to this change, child marriages will not be invalid until the instance of one of the parties to the marriage. They can approach the court for invalidating their marriage after 2 years of receiving the majority.
The government says that the registration of such marriages will establish the legal rights of the parties to the child marriage and further their children. It can help to negate any denial later.
It shall also help to continue the course of action for those solemnizing child marriages and implement rules for the maintenance and residence of the girl whose marriage has been invalidated. Even the marriage registrar has the right to inform the Child Marriage Prohibition officer after the marriage is registered. The law does not lay any particular constraint on the registration of child marriages. The Supreme Court also commented on one of the cases that the marriage registration itself does not validate a marriage.
However, it is important to document custody cases of children and even the rights of children born from the registered marriage of two parties. Now, the parliament has got to consider a suggestion of law commission to revise 2006, prohibition of child marriage act to make child marriages below 16 years invalid. Also, those solemnized when any of the party was between 16 and 18 voidable where that can be made void at the instance of any of the party.