The Karnataka State Commission for Protection of Child Rights received a phone call at around 5:30 pm on the evening of 18th November 09. The caller who identified himself as X and said he was calling from Chigaru , Gubbi Taluk, Tumkur District to alert the Commission about a child marriage that was going to take place the next morning much against the wishes of a young girl Y at the local Marriage hall. The pre-nuptial ceremonies had begun he added and that the to-be bride and bridegroom’s parties were in the said choultry. The Commission initially felt suspicious about the identity of the caller (whether he was a distraught lover) but it was done away with when the Commission returned his call asking X to reveal his identity. He claimed that he was 38 years old married man and a close relative of Y.
A member of the Commission promptly notified the Deputy Director (DD) of the Dept. of Women and Child Devt, Tumkur and asked him to visit the Shiva Parvati Kalyan Mantap where and inquire into the matter. The DD delegated the responsibility to the Child Development Project Officer (CDPO) who in turn contacted the local Police Station and requested Sub-Inspector (SI) to join him at the choultry.
In the meanwhile another member of the Commission a contacted a local NGO Abhivruddhi Samaste (AS) and requested them to also intervene. By around 6.30 pm, the AS representatives, the CDPO as well as the Sub inspector of police reached the venue. The CDPO soon after reported to the Commission that the bride Y appeared to be around 15 years old. Arrangements were in full swing to marry her to one Z aged 26 years. The CDPO also reported that the paternal uncle of Z was one Mr.A, Circle Inspector of Whitefield, Bangalore and was refusing to cooperate with the request to submit the birth/school certificate of bride to-be and had disclosed that her name was “B” and not “Y”.
At around 8 pm in the evening the Commission received a call from the CDPO stating that the Circle Inspector was creating a commotion in the choultry and demanding that the CDPO submit a written complaint on receipt of which he would subject the age certificate of the girl. Further, he began threatening the CDPO that he would file a defamation case against him and the Commission. The Circle Inspector began abusing the NGO activists and asked them and the CDPO to vacate the scene.
In the meanwhile, the wedding party managed to change the name on the floral name board from “Y” to “B”. The CDPO and NGO activists got to know that B was the in fact Y’s older sister. The girl’s family, late in the evening agreed to submit the pre-university certificate of the girl B who they claimed was 18 years and 3 months of age.
The S.I then brought the NGO activists and the CDPO to Police Station to avoid any further altercations. The Circle Inspector also reached the police station. The CDPO then contacted the Commission and was directed to lodge a complaint at the Police Station in the name of the Commission. The complaint was filed and as night was closing in, the team decided to call it a day and meet the next morning at the choultry.
The next morning, the team was surprised to note that the marriage parties had vacated the choultry having cancelled the marriage. The matter was reported to the Commission and in the local newspapers and the television media.
The Commission has called for a status report from the Director WCD on the whereabouts of the minor girl and her well being and details of action initiated by the Govt. against the families of the girl and boy who were parties to getting the minor girl married.
The Commission is also seeking information from the Director, WCD on:
• Advocacy efforts made during the last two years by the Dept. to widely publicise the negative impact of child marriages as seen under The PCMA (Karnataka) Rules 2007, Rule No.9 (“The CMPO shall create awareness and sensitize the community about the provisions of the Act and its harmful effects on the issue of Child Marriage”) and the punishment spelled out in the PCM Act 2006, Sec. 10 and 11 (“a strict penalty will be prescribed for those performing, conducting, directing or abetting any child marriage, the guilty shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment extending upto a period of 2 years and shall be liable to a fine which may extend upto 1 Lakh Rupees”.)
• Advocacy efforts planned for the rest of the current year
• Whether copies of the CMP Act 2006, Rules and Notification dated 2.5.2008 has been disseminated to all the officers designated as PCM Officers and whether they have received orientation on the subject to enable them to intervene as per the provisions of the Act and the Karnataka Rules.
• While the CDPO, NGO and police SI need to be commended for their quick response and presence of mind, much has been learnt from this case for future interventions.