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Gambler dad & fiancé held

Malda, Dec. 13: Police today arrested the prospective groom and the paddy trader who had planned to marry off his daughter in a trade-off to clear his gambling debt of Rs 85,000.

Shyam Singh, the assistant superintendent of Malda, said: “Dibyendu Chatterjee, the district social welfare officer of Malda, has filed a complaint against them in Habibpur police station. Accordingly, the duo have been arrested. We will also put the 14-year-old girl in a government home in Malda town.”

Charges under the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006, have been filed against the duo.

The girl is 14 years old, so her marriage would have been illegal.

According to district officials, both families had given an undertaking that the marriage would not be held.

Sabitri Mitra, the state minister for women and child development, had today instructed Malda police to take action against the prospective groom and the girl’s father.

“I was surprised to learn about the incident that a person has agreed to get his daughter, who is a minor, married to a person to whom he lost in gambling. It is unfortunate that the block administration of Habibpur and the police did not have any inkling of the incident,” Mitra said today.

“It is equally disappointing to know that the panchayat pradhan and local member of panchayat had information of the incident. Legal steps can be taken against them as well for not protesting against the marriage,” she said.

A gram panchayat member who had attended the ashirbad ceremonies at the homes of the groom and the girl had said that she did not lodge a police complaint as both families had agreed to the marriage.

Sharad Dwivedi, the district magistrate of Malda, said they were looking into the matter.

“It is a crime to get a minor married. The block administration has been asked to look into the issue,” said Dwivedi.

The girl had said yesterday that she was against the marriage, but would not go against the wishes of her parents.

Mitra said: “I had a talk with the additional superintendent of police. Further, the officials of the district social welfare department have been asked to rescue the girl and bring her to a government home and ensure that she can continue her studies.” The girl is in Class VIII.

Arnab Roy, the block development officer of Habibpur, met both families today.

“Members of both the families, including the girl and youth, were present today. We have made it clear to them that it is a crime to get a minor girl married. Both the families have pleaded ignorance and have given an undertaking that the marriage will not be held,” Roy said.