On August 16, 2021, the Rajasthan government proposed a controversial bill for the amendment of the Rajasthan Compulsory Registration of Marriage Act, 2009. The bill sought to amend Sec 8 of the Act, making it compulsory to register child marriages. Consequently, the bill created a nationwide alarm.
When the bill came to the state Assembly, social welfare organizations opposed it across the country. The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) actively criticised the bill. Human rights activists and organisations also showed apprehension that Rajasthan government is going to legalize child marriage in India.
According to Article 1 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989, “a child means every human being below the age of eighteen years unless, under the law applicable to the child, the majority is attained earlier.”
According to Indian laws, the definition of a child may vary according to the situation. Consequently, according to the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006, 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.
Prohibition of Child Marriage:
The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006, defines “child marriage” as a marriage in which either of the contracting parties is a child. Likewise, the UNICEF defines child marriage as the formal or informal union between a child and another individual who may be a child or an adult.
To prevent child marriage, in the year 2006, government introduced specific legislation. Hence, under this Act, child marriage became a punishable offense. Consequently, whoever facilitated child marriage became liable to be punished with imprisonment or fine, or both.
Proposed Amendment – Registration of child marriage:
On September 17, the Rajasthan Assembly passed the Rajasthan Compulsory Registrations of Marriage (Amendment) Bill 2021. The intention was to bring changes to the law passed in 2009. For instance, it dealt with:
- Appointment of Marriage Registration Officers
- Duty of parties to a marriage to submit the memorandum for registration.
- The amendment authorizes women above 18 years to provide information about their marriage on their own
Additionally, the Bill has brought an amendment to Sections 5 and 8 of the Act of 2009. According to Section 8 of the amended Act, the parents or guardian of a bride groom who is younger than 21 years and bride who is below the age of 18 years, “shall be responsible to submit the memorandum, in such manner, as prescribed, within thirty days from the date of solemnization of the marriage to the registrar”.
In essence, under this amendment, all couples have to mandatorily register their marriage. In case of minors, it is the responsibility of the guardian to register the marriage within 30 days.
Government’s Rationale for Registration of Child Marriage:
In face of the opposition and criticism, the government justified its stance. It stated that “The new bill does not in any way dilute the stringent provisions of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006. The registration of child marriage will not infringe the right to void the marriage given to the bride and groom in the Act”.
Spokesperson further added that the bill does not say that child marriage is valid. “The bill says that after marriage, only registration is necessary. It does not imply that child marriage is valid. If the District Collector wants, he or she can still take action against the child marriages.”
“This amendment is not in contradiction to the central law. The Supreme Court has also ruled that there should be compulsory registration of marriages. Hence the bill includes child marriages.”
The new bill introduced created great controversy among the citizen and the member of the house and different NGOs. The bill had mixed views. This bill was heavily opposed by the BPJ and the child protection activists. They stated that the bill will allow and legalize child marriage.
On the other hand, the Government also put forward the argument that the option of voiding child marriage, available for the children once they turn major, is impossible to avail if there is no record of it. The government also said that it has given the powers to the collector to take action against the parties constituting the child marriage (i.e., parents of the children, the adult person contracting marriage with the child). The Government tried to answer all the questions laid before them and convince the house and people.
However, the Governor of Rajasthan put a stay on the amendment. The government of Rajasthan ultimately rolled back the Rajasthan Compulsory Registration of Marriage (Amendment) Bill, 2021.
 Mohammed Iqbal, Rajasthan bill will have serious impact on minors, says National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, The Hindu, 25 June 2022, https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/ncpcr-writes-to-rajasthan-cm-over-marriage-registration-bill-says-it-legitimises-child-marriage/article36665269.ece
 The Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989. art 1
 The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 § 2(a)
 The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 § 2(b)
 Child Marriage, Child marriage, UNICEF
 Sharat Kumar, Rajasthan Assembly passes bill to register child marriages, BJP protests, Rajasthan Assembly passes bill to register child marriages, BJP protests – India News (indiatoday.in)
 Rajasthan Compulsory Registrations of Marriage (Amendment) Bill 2021
 Taran Deol, New Rajasthan govt law triggers political furore, BJP accuses it of promoting child marriage, The Print, 25 June 2022, https://theprint.in/politics/new-rajasthan-govt-law-triggers-political-furore-bjp-accuses-it-of-promoting-child-marriage/736900/
 Gursharan Bhalla, Registration Of Child Marriages Will Now Be Allowed In Rajasthan After New Bill Passage, India Times, 26 June 2022, https://www.indiatimes.com/news/india/rajasthan-passes-bill-to-register-child-marriages-549704.html
Editor: Ashish Ranjan