The official circular issued by Local Administration Department Principal Secretary, Government of Kerala, is directing secretaries of civic bodies to register marriages of Muslim girls and men who have not attained the permissible age limit of 18 and 21 respectively if they produce a certificate from their religious regulatory institution.
The official version is that lot of complaints are coming up about secretaries of civic bodies who are refusing to register such marriages. These secretaries wield the power of registrars in Kerala. This sort of stand create hassles for the people who intend to migrate to Gulf countries. Gulf countries always insist on marriage certificates issued by civic bodies before they process migration documents. And, official version continues that this order is for saving the people who got married in the past.
The state government has put forward an interesting clarification for this new move: Muslim Marriage Rules, 1957 did not insist on age limit and Child Marriage Prevention Act, 2006 did not specify that marriage between men below 21 and girls below 18 years was invalid.
BJP and Left parties maintain that this is a blatant move to legitimise child marriages. This allegation can not be discounted in the wake of the powerful influence Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) enjoys in the ruling Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) apparatus. CM Oommen Chandy is already suffering from sharp attacks from both opposition and from rival “I Group” led by state Congress chief Ramesh Chennithala due to the controversy triggered off in connection with the latter’s entry to the ministry. Chandy ministry is depending on a wafer thin majority. While Congress commands 39 MLAs, IUML tally is 20. In another words IUML is the oxygen for the ministry. Interestingly the new circular about the Muslim marriage age has been issued by the department of Panchayat, Social Welfare & Kerala Institute of Local Administration with Dr. M.K. Muneer, the IUML veteran, at its helm. Observers believe that this is a carefully orchestrated move to take the Muslim community to where they were half a century back.