Child marriage in Assam performed through ‘marriage deeds’ by court officials, three arrested

Child marriage in Assam performed through ‘marriage deeds’ by court officials, three arrested

Child marriage Child marriage

BARPETA: Assam Police has arrested three persons who were involved in the marriage of a minor in the Howly area of Barpeta Road in Barpeta district through a ‘Pre-marriage Agreement’.

Jahirul Islam the groom,  Baser Ali, Father of the groom, father of the child bride have been arrested by Howly Police based on an FIR, filed by Rafiqul Islam, a child rights activist associated with Bheraldi Rural Development Association- a rights organization.

Child marriage in Assam performed through ‘marriage deeds’

During the investigation by the NGO, it was found that the 13-year-old girl was sent to the husband’s house – Jahirul Islam after their parents got into a ‘Pre-marriage agreement’- a rampant practice in minority-dominated districts of Western Assam. The age of the groom is 26 years- exactly twice the age of the bride.

The FIR filed by Rafiqul Islam reads: “The accused persons said that they entered some kind of agreement in stamp paper. The stamp paper agreement is an attempt to frustrate the objective of the child protection legislation; specifically the PCMA, 2006, POCSO Act 2012 and JJ Act, 2015.”

Child marriage in Assam performed through ‘marriage deeds’

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The rising graph of Child Marriage:

The Assam Assembly in the recently concluded budget session stated that the state witnessed a sharp increase during the past five years.

3,192 child marriages were recorded from 2016-17 fiscal in the 2020-21 financial year.74 child marriages were performed during 2016-17 followed by 448 during 2017-18 and 759 during 2018-19.

The child marriage figure jumped to 1,089 during the financial year of 2019-20. The year 2020-21 saw 822 child marriage cases.

Such marriages are mostly reported from minority-dominated areas of Assam- especially from Western Assam districts.

What is a ‘Pre-Marriage Agreement’?

A marriage agreement is an agreement between two parties- the groom’s family and the bride’s family. The marriage of a minor girl is fixed with a man (in some cases minor boy) via affidavits or pre-marriage agreements prepared by advocates (mostly local) for a fee of Rs. 500 to Rs. 1500.

The agreement is prepared in legal stamp paper which is signed by a notary of a lower court. In such an agreement, the bride’s family legally agrees to get the minor child married to the groom’s family.

Mostly taken place between the poor parents of a girl child and the relatively rich family of a boy, the agreement also makes provision for a fine for the bride’s family if they fail to get the girl married to the groom as per the agreement. Such fine amounts from Rs. 50,000 to Rs. 1 lakh.

Talking to InsideNE, Rafiqul Islam said, “The minor girl is sent to the groom’s house right after such arrangement to start a conjugal life. But if someone informs the police, they show them the copy of the agreement and say that as the marriage is fixed in future, the girl was sent to her future in-law's house to stay as a guest and not as a wife which is a lie”

How does a Pre-marriage agreement look like?

Inside NE got to hold on to one such Pre- Marriage agreement drafted by an Advocate in Bilasipara of Dhubri district and stamped by S.A Akhter, a Notary in Bilasipara sub-division.

The agreement reads: “The daughter of the first party is a minor, but the said daughter has fallen in deep love with the second party since long. As the bride is a minor and their valid social marriage cannot be solemnised at the present stage, hence the guardian of the minor daughter and the second party… has decided to solemnise the valid marriage after attaining majority age by the daughter.”

Child marriage in Assam performed through ‘marriage deeds’

One of the contract’s terms said the minor girl “will stay at the house of the 2nd party”, i.e. the house of the future groom, and that the “2nd party will look after and maintain her properly till marriage".

In another Pre-Marriage Agreement, clause 3 of the agreement says, “If the first party (bride’s family) fails to do (getting the girl married) so, then the 1st party will pay Rs. 50,0000 (Five Lakhs) only towards the 2nd party (Groom’s family) as compensation.”

The legal standing of Pre-Marriage Agreements:

Firuz Khan, a senior advocate of Gauhati High Court has said that Pre Marriage Agreements are not valid in the eye of law.

“Generally it is seen that parties enter into marriage agreement before the notary public. Such agreements are not valid in the eye of law. Time and again courts have held that notary/oath commissioners are not authorised to execute marriage or divorce documents. There are only two forms of marriage one is social marriage as per the customs of the parties and the other is the one registered under specific acts like the Special Marriage Act, 1954.”

Rafiqul Islam, the child rights activist says, “In many instances, both the parties do not even know what is written in the agreement. They think since an agreement is made, they are free to get their minor girl married and send off to the groom’s house.”

Child marriage is prohibited under The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006. As per this act, a boy who has not completed 21 years of age and a girl who has not completed 18 years of age is considered as a child.

“There can be no marriage agreement with a future date of commencement and all such agreements have no force in the eye of law and as such are invalid”, said Firuz Khan.

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Edited By: Admin
Published On: Aug 23, 2021