Rajasthan High Court Orders Local Authorities to Prevent Child Marriages or Face Responsibility

The Rajasthan High Court has issued a directive to the Bhajanlal government to take serious measures against the practice of child marriages in the state. The court has called on the state government to ensure that local representatives, including panchayats and ward members, are made aware and actively prevent child marriages. Additionally, it warned that these representatives would be held accountable if such marriages occur.

The order, issued by the bench of Justices Pankaj Bhandari and Shubha Mehta, was in response to a public interest litigation filed by the Just Rights for Children Alliance and the Save Childhood Movement. The court emphasized the alarming statistics from the National Family Health Survey-5, which reports that 3.7% of girls aged 15 to 19 are already mothers or pregnant.

Despite the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, the state continues to see occurrences of such marriages, indicating much work is still needed. The court noted that it is the duty of the sarpanch, under the Panchayati Raj rules, to prevent child marriages.

The court was informed by advocate Ashish Kumar Singh that a significant number of child marriages are expected this month during Akshaya Tritiya. The National Family Health Survey-5 also highlights that 25.4% of women aged 20 to 24 were married before the age of 18, with 15.1% in urban areas and 28.3% in rural areas. The court suggested that Child Marriage Prohibition Officers should be required to report on child marriages in their areas and the efforts made to prevent them.

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