Minorities panel asks Muslim leaders to move court over child marriage

State Minorities Commission chairman Bishop M.Prakash on Tuesday asked leaders of Muslim organizations to move the High Court or Supreme Court if they were aggrieved over the Perambalur district administration preventing child marriages.

The Commission visited Perambalur on Tuesday.

Bishop Prakash was responding to Mohammed Haneefa, co-coordinator of 24 Muslim Organizations, who contended that the District Collector had no power to stop the marriages of Muslim girls once they attained puberty. He said, “This is Muslim Personal Law and Muslims are not bound by any other law.” Besides, by preventing the marriages, the administration had caused immense pain to the families concerned. Only the organizers of the marriage could be arrested and not the girl who was about to be married, he argued.

However, District Collector Darez Ahmed contended that as per Indian Child Marriage Act 2006, any marriage below the age of 18 was illegal. “We have prevented 164 child marriages (including three of the Muslims) in the district and of them 148 girls are now studying in schools.”

He also explained that Perambalur had a very high maternal mortality rate in 2011 because of such early marriages as the girl is in no position to deliver the child. As the nutrition level in the district is very poor, this results in mortality of the girl. “Physiologically, it is a very severe strain on the girl,” he explained.

Besides, he said the entire process was done as per law. The moment the district administration came to know of a wedding suspected to be a “child marriage”, the District Social Welfare Officer was informed, who inquired into it before preventing the same. The child was produced before Child Welfare Committee and the Judicial Magistrate gave an injunction. “After that, if any one feels that the district administration is in the wrong, they are free to move the higher courts”, he asserted. When Mr.Haneefa cited a judgment of the Delhi High Court, the Collector said that it related to an issue six months after solemnization of marriagem whereas whatever had been done in Perambalur district was well before the solemnization of marriage.

District Social Welfare Officer K. Pechiammal dismissed the allegation that the girls, whose marriage was stopped, were arrested.