New Delhi, May 6: The Supreme Court today issued notices to the Centre and 10 states on a petition seeking to put an end to the “social evil” of child marriage.
A bench of Chief Justice V.N. Khare, Justice S.B. Sinha and Justice A. Lakshmanan issued the notices after hearing a petition by the Forum for Fact Finding Documentation and Advocacy.
Apart from the Centre, the notices have been sent to Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.
Appearing for the petitioner, Colin Gonsalves and Aparna Bhat contended that the law prohibiting child marriage was seldom implemented in these states and sought the court’s direction to make the chief secretaries, district collectors, directors-general and superintendents of police accountable.
The petitioner also sought a direction from the court to make the states pay “exemplary damages” to the girls abused in child marriages.
The petition said the states should have the option to recover the damages paid from the family of the boy.
“Present day India is witnessing an emergence of this evil practice with large-scale child marriages being performed on auspicious occasions in many states, in total violation of law,” the petition said.
It put the average age of child brides at 12 and added that, in several cases, the families did not even wait for her to attain puberty.
The education of the child is abruptly stopped and, after marriage, “she is used as a bonded labour by the boy’s family and sexual abuse and rape of such girl children are common occurrences as almost every male in the boy’s family uses her”, the petition said.
“She, even as a child, bears another child and gives birth to many more children while still a minor and dies young.”
The petition accused the government of “apathy” and placed responsibility on the government.
It pointed out that policemen who were supposed to stop such instances, “in fact”, took part in the “child marriage celebrations”.