Recalling the controversial circular on Muslim marriages, the government will soon come up with a new one prescribing cut-off date for registration. The new circular, which is likely to be released on Friday, will not have any prospective application besides limiting its play to marriages held before the date of issuance of the circular.

The new circular will supersede the earlier one issued by the Secretary, Local Self-Government Department, directing civic bodies to register marriages of Muslim men below 21 years and women below 18 years but over 16 years. Some of the key provisions of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act 2006 too will be incorporated in the new order to give it more teeth, official sources said.

The government was forced to take a relook at the controversial circular as protests swelled against it. There were also criticisms that the order was based on “non-existing provision in a non-existing law” in the country. In the wake of severe criticisms, the government had asked the State Law Secretary to come up with suggestions to put the records straight in the matter.

As the debate gathered momentum, several social organisations from the Muslim community and political parties took sides in the issue. While some sections of the Muslim community strongly defended the order, some others feared that it would promote the marriage of minors.

C. P. Ramaraja Prema Prasad, State Law Secretary, said the application of the order was limited to the registration of the “factum of the marriage.” The order comes into play only when legal issues related to the children born out of such marriages are considered including their legitimacy, succession and parental rights. The order also drew strength from an earlier order of the Supreme Court of India, which said that all the marriages should be registered.

The notification, while enabling the registering authorities to register the factum of the marriage, in no way attempts to dilute the provisions of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act 2006. The order does not validate any marriage and, in fact, helps in booking those persons who violate the law, he said.

Senior officials in the Law Department admitted that the reference of the Muslim Marriage Act, 1957 inadvertently got into the circular, which led to severe criticisms.

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