J&K govt unveils draft rules for prohibition of child marriages

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In a significant move, the administration of Jammu & Kashmir has unveiled the draft rules for implementation of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Actin the Union Territory.

In a notification, a copy of which is in possession of news agency—Kashmir News Observer (KNO), the department of Social Welfare has unveiled the draft “Jammu and Kashmir Prohibition of Child Marriage Rules, 2023”.

The draft rules, which have been put in public domain for seeking suggestions, have been framed under the powers vested with UT administration by sub-section (1) of section 19 of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006.

The Social Welfare department has asked interested individuals, organisations, government statutory bodies and all other interested stakeholders to submit their feedback on the proposal within 15 days.

The key features of the draft rules is that the government has proposed to designate certain officers as “child marriage prohibition officers” within their respective jurisdiction.

The officers to be designated include chief education officer, zonal education officer, block medical officer, block development officer, assistant labour commissioner, assistant commissioner (Panchayat), district social welfare officer, child development protection officer, tehsildar and naib-Tehsildar.

According to the draft rules, it shall be the duty of every child marriage prohibition officer to act immediately upon any information of solemnization of any child marriage that may be received through any mode of communication including written or oral i.e. through a letter, telephone, telegram, e-mail etc. or by any other means and forthwith initiate all necessary action.

The officer shall furnish quarterly return and statistics to the district magistrate concerned and the directorates of social welfare Jammu/ Kashmir.

The officer shall file petition before a judicial magistrate first class/ metropolitan magistrate for obtaining information prohibiting a child marriage.

As per draft rules, the officer shall also file petition for annulling a child marriage in district court in case any of the contracting party to the marriage is a minor.

Their mandate is also to file petition before the district court for maintenance and residence to the female contracting party of the marriage until her remarriage.

They have also been empowered to file petition before the district court for the custody and maintenance of children of the child marriage.

According to the draft rules, these officers would be invested with the powers of police officer as prescribed in section 156, 160, 161, 165 and 175 of Criminal Procedure Code subject to the condition that such powers are exercised by the said officer herself/ himself within her/ his jurisdiction for taking cognizance of offences prescribed under the Act.

The draft rules also state that the district magistrate shall ensure that in every panchayat, a committee is constituted to assist the child marriage prohibition officer in obtaining information about such child marriages, in prevention of such ceremonies and in annulling of such marriages.

These committees would comprise of Sarpanch (chairperson), supervisor, mission Poshan (convener), village level worker/secretary panchayat (member), head master of the nearest school/senior teacher (member) and one women ward member(member)

According to the draft rules, it shall be the duty of local priests of any religion bestowed with the solemnization of marriages, to inform the “child marriage prohibition officer” of her/ his area about the likelihood of such child marriages and shall refrain from solemnizing such marriages with a view to prevent such instances of child marriage.

The rules state that the government of Jammu and Kashmir may declare suitable awards for such persons on whose initiatives/ information the incident(s) of child marriages are prevented. “The district magistrates shall also felicitate such persons on suitable occasions of National importance,” the rules state—(KNO)

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