The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006

What does this law do?

This law:

  • allows anyone who was a child at the time of getting married to legally undo it;

  • provides for maintenance for the girl in a child marriage;

  • treats children born out of child marriages to be legitimate, and makes provisions for their custody and maintenance; and

  • considers certain kinds of child marriages where there was force or trafficking as marriages which never happened legally.

What is a crime under this law?

It is a crime:

  • for an adult male to marry a child wife;

  • to perform or help with a child marriage in any way;

  • to allow, encourage or fail to stop a child marriage (as a parent or guardian); and

  • to attend or take part in a child marriage (as a parent or guardian).

Where can you go to stop or undo a child marriage?

  • You can directly go to a District Court and make an application – the judge can pass an order directing the people involved to not take part in the child marriage.

  • You can go to a Child Marriage Prohibition Officer for help with annulling a child marriage.

Updated till Nov, 2016
The Prohibition Of Child Marriage Act, 2006 ACT NO. 6 OF 2007 [10th January, 2007.] An Act to provide for the prohibition of solemnisation of child marriages and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
BE it enacted by Parliament in the Fifty-seventh Year of the Republic of India as follows:—

1. Short title, extent and commencement.—

(1) This Act may be called the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006.
(2) It extends to the whole of India except the State of Jammu and Kashmir; and it applies also to all citizens of India without and beyond India: Provided that nothing contained in this Act shall apply to the Renoncants of the Union territory of Pondicherry.
(3) It shall come into force on such date as the Central Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, appoint; and different dates may be appointed for different States and any reference in any provision to the commencement of this Act shall be construed in relation to any State as a reference to the coming into force of that provision in that State.
This Act applies to everyone in India and to Indian citizens living abroad. Exceptions:
  • People in Jammu and Kashmir.
  • Renoncants of Pondicherry
When Indian annexed Pondicherry, special status was given to people who had originally given up their personal law to adopt the French civil law - their descendants are called 'renoncants'. The French civil law continues to apply to such people. This Act came into force on January 10, 2007.

2. Definitions.—

In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires,— (a) “child” means a person who, if a male, has not completed twenty-one years of age, and if a female, has not completed eighteen years of age; (b) “child marriage” means a marriage to which either of the contracting parties is a child; (c) “contracting party”, in relation to a marriage, means either of the parties whose marriage is or is about to be thereby solemnised; (d) “Child Marriage Prohibition Officer” includes the Child Marriage Prohibition Officer appointed under sub-section (1) of section 16; (e) “district court” means, in any area for which a Family Court established under section 3 of the Family Courts Act, 1984 (66 of 1984) exists, such Family Court, and in any area for which there is no Family Court but a city civil court exists, that court and in any other area, the principal civil court of original jurisdiction and includes any other civil court which may be specified by the State Government, by notification in the Official Gazette, as having jurisdiction in respect of the matters dealt with in this Act; (f) “minor” means a person who, under the provisions of the Majority Act, 1875 (9 of 1875), is to be deemed not to have attained his majority.
This section will define certain key terms that will be used repeatedly throughout the Act. Whenever these terms appear in this Act after this section, they will have the meanings that are explained here

Who is a child under this law?

Under this law, a child is a:
  • boy under 21 years of age, or
  • girl under 18 years of age,

Who is a minor under this law?

A person under 18 years of age is a minor.

When is a child marriage said to have taken place?

When either party to a marriage is a child, a child marriage is said to have taken place.

Who is a Child Marriage Prohibition Officer?

A Child Marriage Prohibition Officer is the official authority who is supposed to spread awareness and try and prevent child marriages. She can also help a person who wants to get out of such a marriage to make an application to the court to annul it.

What are 'district courts' under this law?

In this Act, whenever there is a reference to a 'district court', it usually means the Family Court or City Civil Court.
  • In areas with a Family Court, the district court is the Family Court.
  • In areas without a Family Court, the district court is the City Civil Court.
  • In areas without a Family Court or a City Civil Court, the district court will be the main civil court of the area.
The State Government may also notify other civil courts which can deal with matters under this Act.

3. Child marriages to be voidable at the option of contracting party being a child.—

(1) Every child marriage, whether solemnised before or after the commencement of this Act, shall be voidable at the option of the contracting party who was a child at the time of the marriage: Provided that a petition for annulling a child marriage by a decree of nullity may be filed in the district court only by a contracting party to the marriage who was a child at the time of the marriage.
(2) If at the time of filing a petition, the petitioner is a minor, the petition may be filed through his or her guardian or next friend along with the Child Marriage Prohibition Officer.
(3) The petition under this section may be filed at any time but before the child filing the petition completes two years of attaining majority.
(4) While granting a decree of nullity under this section, the district court shall make an order directing both the parties to the marriage and their parents or their guardians to return to the other party, his or her parents or guardian, as the case may be, the money, valuables, ornaments and other gifts received on the occasion of the marriage by them from the other side, or an amount equal to the value of such valuables, ornaments, other gifts and money: Provided that no order under this section shall be passed unless the concerned parties have been given notices to appear before the district court and show cause why such order should not be passed.

Is it possible to undo a child marriage legally?

Yes, it is possible to undo the legal effect of a marriage - annulling a child marriage would mean that the marriage is treated as not having any legal effect.
By whom? Someone who was a child at the time of the marriage.
How?
  • Filing a petition in a district court.
  • If the child is below 18, she or he can file the petition through a guardian or adult friend or well-wisher along with a Child Marriage Prohibition Officer.
By when?
  • If the person wanting to annul it is a girl, she must file it by the time she is 18.
  • If the person wanting to annul it is a boy, he must file it by the time he is 21.

What does the district court do when it has annulled the marriage?

  • When a child marriage is annulled by the court, the court will order both parties to return all money, valuables, and other gifts (or cash value) that were exchanged at the time of the marriage.
  • If the parties think that such an order should not be passed, the court has to hear their case.

4. Provision for maintenance and residence to female contracting party to child marriage.—

(1) While granting a decree under section 3, the district court may also make an interim or final order directing the male contracting party to the child marriage, and in case the male contracting party to such marriage is a minor, his parent or guardian to pay maintenance to the female contracting party to the marriage until her remarriage.
(2) The quantum of maintenance payable shall be determined by the district court having regard to the needs of the child, the lifestyle enjoyed by such child during her marriage and the means of income of the paying party.
(3) The amount of maintenance may be directed to be paid monthly or in lump sum.
(4) In case the party making the petition under section 3 is the female contracting party, the district court may also make a suitable order as to her residence until her remarriage.

What kind of maintenance orders can the court pass?

If... Then, the court can order ...
...you were the girl in a child marriage which has been annulled by the court
  • ...the male party to pay you maintenance, and
  • the male party to ensure that you have a place to stay until you get re-married.
  • The court will keep in mind your needs and lifestyle choice while deciding how much maintenance can be paid to you. It will also look at the income of the other party to figure out what is feasible.
  • The court can order that the money be paid at one go or on a monthly basis.

5. Custody and maintenance of children of child marriages.—

(1) Where there are children born of the child marriage, the district court shall make an appropriate order for the custody of such children.
(2) While making an order for the custody of a child under this section, the welfare and best interests of the child shall be the paramount consideration to be given by the district court.
(3) An order for custody of a child may also include appropriate directions for giving to the other party access to the child in such a manner as may best serve the interests of the child, and such other orders as the district court may, in the interest of the child, deem proper.
(4) The district court may also make an appropriate order for providing maintenance to the child by a party to the marriage or their parents or guardians.

What about the custody of children born out of child marriages?

If... Then, the court can ...
children are born out the child marriage
  • pass custody orders
  • allow the other party to visit or get partial custody of the child (if that is in the best interest of the child)
  • pass orders for providing maintenance to the child
When deciding who will get custody, the court will always keep in mind the welfare and best interests of the child.

6. Legitimacy of children born of child marriages.—

Notwithstanding that a child marriage has been annulled by a decree of nullity under section 3, every child begotten or conceived of such marriage before the decree is made, whether born before or after the commencement of this Act, shall be deemed to be a legitimate child for all purposes.

What is the status of children born from child marriages?

The law considers any child born from a child marriage (even after it been annulled) as legitimate - the child will have rights to inheritance etc.

7. Power of district court to modify orders issued under section 4 or section 5.—

The district court shall have the power to add to, modify or revoke any order made under section 4 or section 5 and if there is any change in the circumstances at any time during the pendency of the petition and even after the final disposal of the petition.

Can the court alter the maintenance and custody orders?

Yes, if there is any change in the circumstances, the district court may change or even officially cancel any of its orders as to maintenance or custody.

8. Court to which petition should be made.—

For the purpose of grant of reliefs under sections 3, 4 and 5, the district court having jurisdiction shall include the district court having jurisdiction over the place where the defendant or the child resides, or where the marriage was solemnised or where the parties last resided together or the petitioner is residing on the date of presentation of the petition.

Which court should you go to annul a child marriage?

If you were a party to a child marriage and now want to annul the marriage, you should go to the district court in the area:
  • where the other party to the marriage or the child resides; or
  • where the marriage took place; or
  • where you stayed last with the other party.

9. Punishment for male adult marrying a child.—

Whoever, being a male adult above eighteen 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.

What is the punishment for an adult man marrying a child?

Crime Jail time Fine
Adult man (above 18) marrying a child Rigorous jail time up to 2 years Up to Rs. 1 lakh

10. Punishment for solemnising a child marriage.—

Whoever performs, conducts, directs or abets any child marriage shall be punishable with rigorous imprisonment which may extend to two years and shall be liable to fine which may extend to one lakh rupees unless he proves that he had reasons to believe that the marriage was not a child marriage.

Is it a crime to help with or conduct a child marriage?

Crime Jail time Fine
Conducting or directing or helping a child marriage Rigorous jail time up to 2 years Up to Rs. 1 lakh
Exception- If you can prove that you had reasons to believe that the marriage was not a child marriage, you will not be guilty of committing a crime.Example-Ravi is a priest and conducted a marriage between Raj, 17 and Simran 16.
  • If the priest knew that Raj was only 17 and not old enough to marry lawfully, he can be sent to jail for up to 2 years.
  • If Raj's father told the priest that Raj was 22 years old, then the priest will not be punished.

11. Punishment for promoting or permitting solemnisation of child marriages.—

(1) Where a child contracts a child marriage, any person having charge of the child, whether as parent or guardian or any other person or in any other capacity, lawful or unlawful, including any member of an organisation or association of persons who does any act to promote the marriage or permits it to be solemnised, or negligently fails to prevent it from being solemnised, including attending or participating in a child marriage, shall be punishable with rigorous imprisonment which may extend to two years and shall also be liable to fine which may extend up to one lakh rupees: Provided that no woman shall be punishable with imprisonment.
(2) For the purposes of this section, it shall be presumed, unless and until the contrary is proved, that where a minor child has contracted a marriage, the person having charge of such minor child has negligently failed to prevent the marriage from being solemnised.

Can the parents be punished for allowing a child marriage to take place?

Who can be punished Crime Jail time Fine
Any person or organization or association of persons in charge of the child
  • parent
  • guardian
  • anyone else in charge
No woman can be punished.
Encouraging or helping a child marriage Not stopping a child marriage Attending or taking part in a wedding Rigorous jail time up to 2 years Up to Rs. 1 lakh
The court will assume that a person in charge of a child at the time of her marriage negligently failed to prevent it.

12. Marriage of a minor child to be void in certain circumstances.—

Where a child, being a minor— (a) is taken or enticed out of the keeping of the lawful guardian; or (b) by force compelled, or by any deceitful means induced to go from any place; or (c) is sold for the purpose of marriage; and made to go through a form of marriage or if the minor is married after which the minor is sold or trafficked or used for immoral purposes, such marriage shall be null and void.
In certain situations, the law treats the marriage as never having happened even if neither party has applied to annul the marriage. This happens if either party to a marriage has:
  • taken or tempted a minor (below 18) away from his or her guardian;
  • forced or dishonestly made a minor leave his or her place;
  • 'sold' a minor into marriage; or
  • married a minor and then sold or trafficked him or her for immoral purposes.

13. Power of court to issue injunction prohibiting child marriages.—

(1) Notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained in this Act, if, on an application of the Child Marriage Prohibition Officer or on receipt of information through a complaint or otherwise from any person, a Judicial Magistrate of the first class or a Metropolitan Magistrate is satisfied that a child marriage in contravention of this Act has been arranged or is about to be solemnised, such Magistrate shall issue an injunction against any person including a member of an organisation or an association of persons prohibiting such marriage.
(2) A complaint under sub-section (1) may be made by any person having personal knowledge or reason to believe, and a non-governmental organisation having reasonable information, relating to the likelihood of taking place of solemnisation of a child marriage or child marriages.
(3) The Court of the Judicial Magistrate of the first class or the Metropolitan Magistrate may also take suo motu cognizance on the basis of any reliable report or information.
(4) For the purposes of preventing solemnisation of mass child marriages on certain days such as Akshaya Trutiya, the District Magistrate shall be deemed to be the Child Marriage Prohibition Officer with all powers as are conferred on a Child Marriage Prohibition Officer by or under this Act.
(5) The District Magistrate shall also have additional powers to stop or prevent solemnisation of child marriages and for this purpose, he may take all appropriate measures and use the minimum force required.
(6) No injunction under sub-section (1) shall be issued against any person or member of any organisation or association of persons unless the Court has previously given notice to such person, members of the organisation or association of persons, as the case may be, and has offered him or them an opportunity to show cause against the issue of the injunction: Provided that in the case of any urgency, the Court shall have the power to issue an interim injunction without giving any notice under this section.
(7) An injunction issued under sub-section (1) may be confirmed or vacated after giving notice and hearing the party against whom the injunction was issued.
(8) The Court may either on its own motion or on the application of any person aggrieved, rescind or alter an injunction issued under sub-section (1).
(9) Where an application is received under sub-section (1), the Court shall afford the applicant an early opportunity of appearing before it either in person or by an advocate and if the Court, after hearing the applicant rejects the application wholly or in part, it shall record in writing its reasons for so doing.
(10) Whoever knowing that an injunction has been issued under sub-section (1) against him disobeys such injunction shall be punishable with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years or with fine which may extend to one lakh rupees or with both: Provided that no woman shall be punishable with imprisonment.

What can the court do if it comes to know that a child marriage is going to be conducted?

  • A court (Judicial Magistrate of the First Class, or a Metropolitan Magistrate) can pass an order asking people involved to not conduct the marriage (known as injunction).
  • The court can pass this order when someone files a complaint or if the Child Marriage Prohibition Officer makes an application.

Who can make a complaint?

  • Someone who knows what is happening or is involved in some manner.
  • An NGO which has come to know that the child marriage might happen.

Can a judge take action on her own?

Yes, she can if she has received reliable information about a child marriage which is going to take place.

What are the powers of a District Magistrate with regard to child marriage?

On certain days that are considered auspicious, a large number of child marriages tend to occur in India. On such days, the District Magistrate shall have all the powers of the Child Marriage Prohibition Officer.The District Magistrate should take all possible steps to prevent child marriages on such days. She should try to use minimal force.

How does a court pass an 'injunction' (order) to stop a child marriage?

  • Before passing an injunction to stop a child marriage, the court has to first give notice to the parties. It has to give them a chance to explain their case.
  • In very urgent matters, the court can pass a temporary injunction without giving notice to the parties.
  • After giving notice, and hearing the parties, the court can confirm or cancel the injunction.
  • The court can change its order or even cancel it on its own.
  • If someone makes an application to the court for an injunction order to stop a child marriage from happening, the court must allow the person to present their facts as soon as possible. The court can also choose to listen to this person's lawyer.
  • If the court does not accept the application (fully or partly), it has to record its reasons.

What if the child marriage happens despite a court injunction order against it?

  • If someone knowingly does not obey a court injunction order and goes ahead with the child marriage, he or she can be punished with jail time of up to 2 years or fine of Rs. 1 lakh or both.
  • A woman cannot be punished for this.

14. Child marriages in contravention of injunction orders to be void.—

Any child marriage solemnised in contravention of an injunction order issued under section 13, whether interim or final, shall be void ab initio.

What is the legal validity of marriages which violate a court injunction order?

The law will treat such child marriages as never having happened. It is not a legal marriage.

15. Offences to be cognizable and non-bailable.—

Notwithstanding anything contained in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (2 of 1974), an offence punishable under this Act shall be cognizable and non-bailable.

Treatment of crimes:

  • The police do not need a warrant to arrest for offences or conduct investigation of crimes under this Act.
  • On being arrested, bail cannot be claimed as a matter of right. The Court may accept or reject an application of bail in its discretion.

16. Child Marriage Prohibition Officers.—

(1) The State Government shall, by notification in the Official Gazette, appoint for the whole State, or such part thereof as may be specified in that notification, an officer or officers to be known as the Child Marriage Prohibition Officer having jurisdiction over the area or areas specified in the notification.
(2) The State Government may also request a respectable member of the locality with a record of social service or an officer of the Gram Panchayat or Municipality or an officer of the Government or any public sector undertaking or an office bearer of any non-governmental organisation to assist the Child Marriage Prohibition Officer and such member, officer or office bearer, as the case may be, shall be bound to act accordingly.
(3) It shall be the duty of the Child Marriage Prohibition Officer— (a) to prevent solemnisation of child marriages by taking such action as he may deem fit; (b) to collect evidence for the effective prosecution of persons contravening the provisions of this Act; (c) to advise either individual cases or counsel the residents of the locality generally not to indulge in promoting, helping, aiding or allowing the solemnisation of child marriages; (d) to create awareness of the evil which results from child marriages; (e) to sensitize the community on the issue of child marriages; (f) to furnish such periodical returns and statistics as the State Government may direct; and (g) to discharge such other functions and duties as may be assigned to him by the State Government.
(4) The State Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, subject to such conditions and limitations, invest the Child Marriage Prohibition Officer with such powers of a police officer as may be specified in the notification and the Child Marriage Prohibition Officer shall exercise such powers subject to such conditions and limitations, as may be specified in the notification.
(5) The Child Marriage Prohibition Officer shall have the power to move the Court for an order under sections 4, 5 and 13 and along with the child under section 3.
This section provides for the appointment of Child Marriage Prohibition Officers, along with their powers and duties.

What are the duties of a Child Marriage Protection Officer?

Duties of a Child Marriage Protection Officer include:
  • stopping child marriages from happening;
  • collecting proof so that the persons responsible for such marriages are sent to jail;
  • talking and advising people to not take part in, encourage or allow such marriages;
  • spreading awareness about why child marriages are wrong;
  • explaining the issues concerning child marriages to communities;
  • making regular reports for the State Government; and
  • performing any other functions assigned to her.
Sometimes the Child Marriage Prohibition Officer may have the powers of a police officer if it has been given such powers by the State Government.A Child Marriage Prohibition Officer, in order to prevent child marriages, can apply to the court for:
  • annulling a child marriage;
  • maintenance orders;
  • custody orders; and
  • an injunction to stop a child marriage from happening.

17. Child Marriage Prohibition Officers to be public servants.—

The Child Marriage Prohibition Officers shall be deemed to be public servants within the meaning of section 21 of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860).

18. Protection of action taken in good faith.—

No suit, prosecution or other legal proceedings shall lie against the Child Marriage Prohibition Officer in respect of anything in good faith done or intended to be done in pursuance of this Act or any rule or order made thereunder.
A Child Marriage Prohibition Officer cannot be pulled up in a court of law for anything she has done in good faith under this law.

19. Power of State Government to make rules.—

(1) The State Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, make rules for carrying out the provisions of this Act.
(2) Every rule made under this Act shall, as soon as may be after it is made, be laid before the State Legislature.

20. Amendment of Act No. 25 of 1955.—

In the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, in section 18, for clause (a), the following clause shall be substituted, namely:— “(a) in the case of contravention of the condition specified in clause (iii) of section 5, with rigorous imprisonment which may extend to two years or with fine which may extend to one lakh rupees, or with both”.
The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 earlier punished child marriage with 15 days jail or Rs. 1000 fine. This section changes the law by increasing it to 2 years jail time and Rs. 1,00,000.

21. Repeal and savings.—

(1) The Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929 (19 of 1929) is hereby repealed.
(2) Notwithstanding such repeal, all cases and other proceedings pending or continued under the said Act at the commencement of this Act shall be continued and disposed of in accordance with the provisions of the repealed Act, as if this Act had not been passed.
This provision repeals an older law on child marriage.