SOURCE: THE INDIAN EXPRESS
QUESTION: Do you think Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution are violated by having different legal age for men and women to marry in India? Justify this.
Topic- THE LOGIC OF,AND DEBATE AROUND MINIMUM AGE FOR WOMEN
- Women’s Minimum Age For Marriage
WHY IN NEWS ?
- During the Independence Day Speech, PM announced that the central government has set up a committee to reconsider the minimum age of marriage for women
- The minimum age of marriage for women, has been a contentious issue, as the law evolved in the face of much resistance from religious and social conservatives.
- According to the Indian Majority Act, 1875, an individual attains the age of majority at 18, which is gender-neutral.
- However, the minimum age of marriage is distinct from the age of majority, as the law prescribes that the minimum age of marriage for men and women is 21 years and 18 years respectively.
JAYA JAITLEY TASK FORCE :
- On June 2, the Union Ministry for Women and Child Development set up a task force headed Jaya Jaitely.
- It will examine matters pertaining to age of motherhood, imperatives of lowering Maternal Mortality Ratio and improvement of nutritional levels among women.
- The task force will examine the correlation of age of marriage and motherhood with health, medical well-being, and nutritional status of the mother and neonate, infant or child, during pregnancy, birth and thereafter.
- It will look at key parameters like Infant Mortality Rate (IMR), Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR), Total Fertility Rate (TFR), Sex Ratio at Birth (SRB) and Child Sex Ratio (CSR).
- It will examine possibility of increasing age of marriage for women from present 18 years to 21 years.
NEED FOR MINIMUM AGE FOR MARRIAGE :
- The law prescribes a minimum age of marriage to essentially outlaw child marriages and prevent the abuse of minors.
- Personal laws of various religions that deal with marriage have their own standards, often reflecting custom.
- For Hindus: Section 5(iii) of The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, sets 18 years as minimum age for the bride and 21 years as the minimum age for the groom.
- However, child marriages are not illegal — even though they can be declared void at the request of the minor in the marriage.
- In Islam: Marriage of a minor who has attained puberty is considered valid.
- Sexual intercourse with a minor is rape and the consent of a minor is regarded as invalid.
Evolution of legal framework for the age of consent:
- IPC: The Indian Penal Code enacted in 1860 criminalised sexual intercourse with a girl below the age of 10.
- The Age of Consent Bill, 1927:
- Amended the provision of rape, declaring that marriage with a girl under 12 would be invalid.
- The law faced opposition from conservative leaders of the Indian National Movement, who saw the British intervention as an attack on Hindu customs.
- The Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929:
- Popularly known as the Sarda Act after its sponsor Harbilas Sarda, a judge and a member of Arya Samaj, set 16 and 18 years as the minimum age of marriage for girls and boys respectively.
- The act was amended in 1978 to prescribe 18 and 21 years as the age of marriage for a woman and a man respectively.
- The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955,
- It sets 18 years as the minimum age for the bride and 21 years as the minimum age for the groom.
- However, child marriages are not illegal, but can be declared void at the request of the minor in the marriage.
- The Special Marriage Act, 1954 and the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 also prescribe 18 and 21 years as the minimum age of consent for marriage for women and men respectively.
IMPORTANCE OF RELOOKING THE LAW :
- For bringing in gender-neutrality: To reduce the risks of early pregnancy among women, which is associated with increased child mortality rates and affects the health of the mother.
- Preventing child marriages: Child marriages are very prevalent in the country, despite laws mandating minimum age and criminalising sexual intercourse with a minor.
- Ending discrimination: Different legal ages for men and women to marry are violative of Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India guarantee the right to equality and the right to live with dignity.
CHILD MARRIAGES IN INDIA AND THE WORLD :
- United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA): While child marriages were almost universally banned, around 33,000 happens every day, all around the world.
- India and South Asia: Although advances in India have contributed to a 50 percent decline in child marriage in South Asia, the region still accounts for the largest number of child marriages each year, estimated at 4.1 million in 2017.
- Child marriage and economic well being: In India, an analysis of child marriage data show that among girls married by age 18, 46 percent were also in the lowest income bracket.
- UNICEF estimates suggest that each year, at least 1.5 million girls under the age of 18 are married in India.
- This makes the country home to the largest number of child brides in the world, accounting for a third of the global total.
Link Between Age of Marriage and Nutrition:
- A study conducted by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) which was published in 2019, showed that children born to adolescent mothers (10-19 years) were 5 percentage points more likely to be stunted (shorter for their age) than those born to young adults (20-24 years), and 11 percentage points more stunted than children born to adult mothers (25 years or older).
- Children born to adolescent mothers also had 10 percentage points higher prevalence of low weight as adult mothers.
- It also highlighted other factors, such as lower education among teenage mothers and their poor economic status, which had the strongest links with a child’s height and weight measurements.
- It recommended that increasing age at first marriage, age at first birth, and girl’s education are a promising approach to improve maternal and child nutrition.
- The minimum age of marriage, especially for women, has been a contentious issue. It is high time that the laws dealing with same are changed in the spirit of Constitutional values.
- Early pregnancy is associated with increased child mortality rates and affects the health of the mother. Thus, there is a need to focus on a mother’s health and readiness to carry a child.
- The government needs to emphasize upon economic and social empowerment of women and girls, as well as targeted social and behaviour change communication (SBCC) campaigns. Increasing the minimum age of marriage of women will also lead to gender-neutrality.
SOURCE :THE HINDU,NOT EDITORIAL
QUESTION : Discuss why PM CARES fund should be brought within the ambit of RTI act?
- RTI On PM-Cares Fund
WHY IN NEWS ?
- The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has denied a RTI request related to the Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund (PM-CARES Fund).
BACKGROUND TO THE RTI PETITION OF PM CARES :
- The Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations (PM CARES) Fund was set to accept donations and provide relief during the COVID-19 pandemic, and other similar emergencies.
- After the announcement of the PM CARES fund an RTI Application was filed asking the PMO to provide the Fund’s trust deed and all government orders, notifications and circulars relating to its creation and operation.
- The Petition was filed regarding the need of a PM CARES fund when the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund (PMNRF) was already existing.
- Misuse: The move has been criticized by the as Central Information Commission (CIC) misuse of Section 7(9) by the PMO.
- Kerala HC Judgement: According to the judgment by the Kerala High Court in 2010, Section 7(9) does not exempt any public authority from disclosing information.
- It only gives discretion to the public authority to provide the information in a form other than the form in which the information is sought for.
- Section 8 (1) lists the various valid reasons for exemption against furnishing information under the Act and not Section 7(9).
SECTION 8 OF THE RTI Act, 2005 :
- This provides for exemption from disclosure of information such as-
- Which would affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security, strategic, scientific or economic interests of the State;
- Which has been expressly forbidden to be published by any court of law or tribunal;
- Which would cause a breach of privilege of Parliament or the State Legislature;
- Information including commercial confidence, trade secrets or intellectual property;
- Information received in confidence from foreign government;
- Information which would endanger the life or physical safety of any person; etc.
SECTION 7(9) :
- on the other hand, only says, “An information shall ordinarily be provided in the form in which it is sought unless it would disproportionately divert the resources of the public authority or would be detrimental to the safety or preservation of the record in question.”
WHAT THE CONSTITUTION OF INDIA SAYS?
- Under Article 266(2) of the Constitution, “public moneys received by or on behalf of the Government of India”, which is not on account of revenue from taxes, duties, repayment of loans and the like should be credited to the Public Account of India.
CONCERNS OF PM CARES FUND :
- Concerns have been raised around the opaqueness of PM CARES Fund’s trust deed against public scrutiny of the expenditure of the fund.
- The need for a new PM CARES Fund, given that a PM National Relief Fund (PMNRF) with similar objectives exists.
- The decision to allow uncapped corporate donations to the fund to count as CSR expenditure, a facility not provided to PMNRF or the CM’s Relief Funds, goes against previous guidelines stating that CSR should not be used to fund government schemes.
- A government panel had previously advised against allowing CSR contributions to the PMNRF on the grounds that the double benefit of tax exemption would be a “regressive incentive”.
- Donations to PMCARES have been made tax-exempt, and can be counted against a company’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) obligations. It is also exempt from the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010, and accepts foreign contributions.
PM-CARES FUND :
- It is a PM-Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund set up to support the government in its fight against the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
- The fund consists entirely of voluntary contributions from individuals/organizations and does not get any budgetary support.
- Differences between Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund and PM-CARES,
- Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund is for all kinds of natural disasters, while the PM CARES fund is specially meant for COVID-19 similar pandemic situations.
- PM CARES is a donation-based fund and the legislative hurdles for withdrawal from the funds are absent.
- The PM CARES Fund tries to differentiate itself from PMNRF by enabling micro-donations. One can donate as low as Rs 10 in the PM CARES Fund, while the minimum one can donate in PM National Relief Fund is Rs 100.
Benefits of donating in the fund:
- Donations have been made tax-exempt.
- Contributions towards PM CARES Fund will be an eligible expenditure under the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) obligations.
- Donations are also exempt from the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010
- It has been set up as a public charitable trust.
- Board of trustees: The Prime Minister chairs the fund in his official capacity, and can nominate three eminent persons in relevant fields to the Board of Trustees. The Ministers of Defence, Home Affairs and Finance are ex-officio Trustees of the Fund.
Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund (PMNRF) :
- PMNRF was instituted in 1948 by then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, to assist displaced persons from Pakistan.
- The fund is recognized as a Trust under the Income Tax Act and the same is managed by the Prime Minister or multiple delegates for national causes.
- The contributions towards PMNRF are notified for 100% deduction from taxable income under section 80(G) of the Income Tax Act, 1961.
- The fund is currently used primarily to tackle natural calamities like floods, cyclones and earthquakes.
- The fund is also used to help with medical treatment like kidney transplantation, cancer treatment and acid attack.
- The fund consists entirely of public contributions and does not get any budgetary support. It accepts voluntary contributions from Individuals, Organizations, Trusts, Companies and Institutions etc.
- The corpus of the fund is also invested in various forms with scheduled commercial banks and other agencies. Disbursements are made with the approval of the Prime Minister.
- The misuse of this section may result in the information commissions levying penalties as this would amount to misinformation provided under the Act.