“What is the status of Child marriage under Hindu Marriage Act, 1955?”
According to Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, if the parties have not completed the prescribed age and they solemnize a marriage before completing that age, that marriage will be considered as a Valid marriage but section 18 prescribes the punishment in case of child marriage. According to this section every person who procures a marriage of himself or herself to be solemnized in contravention of the conditions specified in clause (3) of section-5 that will be punished with rigorous imprisonment which may extend to two years or with fine which may extend to one lakh rupees, or with both.
In a leading case of P.V. Venkataramana vs State (AIR 1977 A.P. 43) Hon’ble Court held that “Any marriage solemnized in contravention of Section 5(iii) of Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 is neither void nor voidable. A child marriage is a valid marriage.”
In a leading case of Sivanandy vs Bhagavathyamma (AIR 1962 Mad.) Hon’ble Court held that “a marriage under Hindu law by minor is valid. The minority of an individual may operate as a bar to his or her incurring contractual obligations, but it cannot be impediment in the matter of performing necessary samskars.”
According to Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, a child marriage is a valid marriage but on the other hand section 13(2) of this act makes such marriage a ground of divorce.
The Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929, restrains solemnization of child marriage but it does not declare them to be void or invalid. On the other hand Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006, makes child marriage voidable and punishable. According to this Act, any minor spouse may file a petition for nullity of marriage in Court within two years after attaining the majority.
But Special Marriage Act, 1954 declares child marriage void. The reason is that this act is meant for literate and advanced people who alone usually , contract civil marriage. On the other hand , The Hindu Marriage Act affect great masses of illiterate and backward people in whom child marriages have been performed for centuries. If this act declared child marriages void then millions of marriages would become void in the whole country. That is why this act declares child marriage a valid marriage.
A marriage is a social institution and the main aim of marriage is that the spouses must support each other physically, mentally and emotionally. It helps in the overall development a person. But a child marriage stops the development of child. Moreover, children are not competent to fulfil their matrimonial obligations. That is why, it should be prohibited.