The State government has informed the Kerala High Court that the circular directing local bodies to register marriages of males aged below 21 and females aged below 18 but over 16 belonging to all communities should not be treated as a licence for child marriages.

In an affidavit filed in response to writ petitions, the government said that the circular dated June 27, 2013 directing local bodies to register all marriages solemnised before June 13, 2013 was issued to ensure that the married couples were getting all the benefits they were legally entitled to. The new circular was issued in the wake of a controversy over an earlier circular directing the local bodies to register marriages of males aged below 21 and a females aged below 18 but over 16 belonging to Muslim community and issue them marriage certificates.

The affidavit said that marriage of girl below 18 and boys below 21 years had taken place in Hindu, Christian and Muslim communities. The circular was not a licence to encourage child marriage.

The government contended that the marriages of girls below 18 years and boys below 21 years were punishable under the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006. Action should be taken in accordance with the provisions of the Act. No action against such marriages could be taken under the provisions of the Kerala Registration of Marriages (Common) Rules 2008.The circular which make marriages legal did not encourage child marriages.

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