Three writ petitions were filed on Wednesday in the Kerala High Court questioning a circular issued by the State government directing to register marriages between males aged below 21 and females aged below 18 but over 16 belonging to the Muslim community and issue them marriage certificates.

The petitions were filed by the Kozhikode based Punerjeni Charitable Trust; Viswa Hindu Parishad, State Committee; and Kerala Yukthivadi Sanghom. The petitioners contended that the circular was against the existing laws.

It was issued with an oblique motive with the connivance of persons with vested interest. It went against the provisions of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act. In fact, the circular perpetuated and justified the social evil of child marriages, the petitioners alleged.

By issuing the order, the government had deviated from its constitutional and statutory duties. The government should have taken steps to implement the provisions of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act instead of issuing such illegal circular.

The contention that marriages were voidable under the Act was not correct.

Such marriages were void. The stand that personal laws permitted such marriages was unjustified in view of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act.The contention that personal laws of Muslims, Christians, and other communities allowed such marriages was untenable after the Act which fixed the marriageable age of a person came into force.

The petitioner sought a directive not to register the marriages between a male of below 21 years and female of below 18 years.

Meanwhile, according to the information received by the Punerjeni Charitable Trust from the social welfare department, as many as 26,442 marriages between girls aged between 13 and 18 took place in Malappuram district during 2001-02 while a total of 17,026 marriages between the same age group were held in Malappuram district during 2002-2003. However, during 2007-2009, 5,829 marriages took place in Malppauram. Community wise figures were not available.

The petitioner said the child welfare officers appointed under the Act had been unable to prevent such marriages because of the circular.

More In: Kerala | National | Kochi