New Delhi, Oct 3 (PTI) A petition has been moved in the Supreme Court on Wednesday seeking declaration of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act (PCMA) as a “secular” legislation overriding all personal laws to curb the menace of child marriages across the country.

The bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices S K Kaul and K M Joseph asked the petitioner organisation to issue copies of the petition to all the state governments.

“Implead all the states as parties,” the bench said on the plea filed by Independent Thought, an organisation working on the rights of children.

The petition, filed through advocate Gaurav Agrawal, also sought direction for appointing Child Marriage Prohibition Officer (CMPO) in uniform and rational manner with clear roles, responsibility and accountability.

“Issue an appropriate writ, order or direction in the nature of writ of declaration that the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 is a secular legislation and overrides all the personal laws in the country,” the plea said.

The petition also sought a direction for preparation of national and state plans of action for implementing the provisions of the PCMA.

“No religious or cultural norms can justify these deviant behaviours and state has a responsibility to come down heavy to curb such abhorrent phenomenon,” the plea said.

“Even after 12 years of the enforcement of the Prohibition of Child Marriages Act, 2006, incidence of child marriages of girl children are alarming and the states are not taking effective steps for implementation of the PCM Act, 2006,” the plea said, adding that, the rights of the girl child are being continuously violated by way of the increase in the number of child marriages in the past years.

The petition also alleged that the state has failed to respond to the SOS calls of children wanting to be saved from forced child marriages.

“A close look at the NCRB data shows that the nexus between offences like trafficking, procuration of minor girls, kidnapping of girls and child marriages. Child marriage is a basis of all these offences and provides a legal way of committing these offences,” the plea said.

The petition claimed that as per the 2016 report of the National Crime Records Bureau, 3,087 cases of procuration of minor girls were reported, showing 52.8 per cent increase over the last year.

It also said that a total of 89,875 (23,350 male and 66,525 females) were kidnapped or abducted, out of which maximum number of persons were kidnapped or abducted for the purpose of marriage (33,855) during 2016.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.