Thiruvananthapuram: An official circular directing local bodies to register marriages of Muslim girls above the age of 16 and men who have not attained the age of 21 years has kicked up a row in Kerala.
The circular, issued by Local Administration Department Principal Secretary, directs secretaries of civic bodies to register marriages of Muslim girls and men who have not attained the mandatory age limit of 18 and 21 respectively on production of a certificate from the religious regulatory institution.
Official sources said the circular was issued following complaints that secretaries of civic bodies, functioning as registrars, were reluctant to register such marriages, causing difficulties for those who want to migrate to Gulf countries which insisted on marriage certificates from civic bodies.
The pro-Left women and cultural organisations have come out against the circular, which, they said, would push the state to medieval ages.
"Child marriage has been banned by law. The decision taken under pressure from conservative sections should be repealed," said Prof V N Murali, president of pro-CPI(M) cultural outfit 'Purogamana Kala Sahitya Sangham.'
Kerala Institute of Local Administration Director P P Balan has also sought a clarification from government on registering such marriages under the provisions of Kerala Registration of Marriages (Common) Rules.
The government's clarification is that Muslim Marriage Rules, 1957, did not insist on age limit and the Child Marriage Prevention Act, 2006 did not specify that marriage between men below 21 and girls below 18 years was invalid. Hence marriages of Muslims who have not attained the mandatory age could be registered.
Those who sternly oppose the circular hold that it is against the very spirit of the Constitution and violated a Supreme Court order which had fixed specific age limit for marriages.
According to lawyers, any executive order which is against the statutory law, can be challenged in court.