1. Short title, extent and commencement.—
This Act applies to everyone in India and to Indian citizens living abroad. Exceptions:
- People in Jammu and Kashmir.
- Renoncants of Pondicherry
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.
3. Child marriages to be voidable at the option of contracting party being a child.—
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.|
|By when?|| |
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.—
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 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.—
What about the custody of children born out of child marriages?
When deciding who will get custody, the court will always keep in mind the welfare and best interests of the child.
|If...||Then, the court can ...|
|children are born out the child marriage|| |
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?
|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?
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.
|Conducting or directing or helping a child marriage||Rigorous jail time up to 2 years||Up to Rs. 1 lakh|
- 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.—
Can the parents be punished for allowing a child marriage to take place?
The court will assume that a person in charge of a child at the time of her marriage negligently failed to prevent it.
|Who can be punished||Crime||Jail time||Fine|
| Any person or organization or association of persons in charge of the child ||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|
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.—
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.—
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.
- 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.—
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.—
This provision repeals an older law on child marriage.