Anyone can file a complaint of child marriage, including the child. It doesn’t matter whether the child marriage has taken place or not as it can be filed at any time before or after the marriage. A complaint can be made to any of the following authorities:
1098 is a toll-free number and it operates across India. It is operated by Childline India Foundation which works for child rights and child protection. Anyone, including children themselves, can call and give information on this number. You should educate children at schools or children who are working, about this helpline number so that illegal acts of child marriage can be prevented.
You can call the Police on 100 to report:
- About a child marriage that is taking place or
- A child marriage that is about to take place.
Alternatively, you can even go to a Police Station where you can file an FIR and report the same.
Child Marriage Prohibition Officer
You can approach the local Child Marriage Prohibition Officer and report a child marriage to him. He will immediately proceed to take action against the persons responsible.
Child Welfare Committee
You can even approach your local Child Welfare Committee established under the law for juvenile justice to look into the matter. For example, in Delhi you can contact the committees based on the districts.
File a Complaint with the Court
You can even directly file a complaint with the Judicial Magistrate (First Class) or the Metropolitan Magistrate. The Court will order the Police or the Child Marriage Prohibition Officer, as required to take action.
When the Court receives credible information that a child marriage has been arranged or is about to take place, it can issue an order prohibiting the persons from conducting and organizing such marriages.
The accused person can apply to the Court to either revoke this order or even alter it. The Court can even do this on its own motion.
Any child marriage that takes place after the order has been issued will not be a valid marriage.
Circumstances of Court Intervention
The Court can intervene:
- On its own, or
- On the basis of a complaint filed by a Child Marriage Prohibition Officer or any Non Governmental Organization (NGO), or
- In some cases, such as on days of Akshaya Tritiya which is an auspicious time for marriages, the Court can also act as the Child Marriage Prohibition Officer and have all the powers of this Prohibition Officer to prevent child marriages from taking place, or
- Any person who has personal knowledge about a child marriage which may take place.
Notice Issued by Court
Before passing this order the Court must issue a notice to the person accused under this law to give an opportunity to defend themselves.
However, in urgent cases, the Court has the power to issue an interim order (before the final order) stopping the marriage, without giving notice to the person(s) accused.
If a temporary order has been issued against you and you do not follow it, you will be punished with jail time of up to two years and/or fine up to one lakh rupees.
Child Marriage Prohibition Officers (CPMO) are appointed by the State governments to curb issues of child marriages in each State. These officers are responsible for reporting and preventing child marriages.
The duties of the CPMO are decided and assigned by the State Government. They broadly include:
- Prevention of Child Marriage by preventing performance of child marriage by taking such action as he deems fit.
- Collection of Evidence for prosecuting persons charged under this law.
- Advising and counselling people of a locality against indulging in any child marriages in any way.
- Spreading Awareness of the problems that arise out of child marriages, such as maternal mortality, malnutrition, domestic violence, etc.
- Sensitizing the community on the issue of child marriage.
- Reporting periodical returns and statistics to the State Government on the frequency and occurrence of child marriage.
In order to effectively carry out their duties, the State Government can even confer upon the CPMO some powers of a police officer with certain conditions and limitations. This has to be done by way of a notification in the Official Gazette.
To read more about the functioning of the CPMO, please refer to this Government Handbook that explains their duties in detail. (page 19-22)