Sharda Act – Child Marriage Restraint Act 1929: Details, Features and Objectives

By BYJU'S Exam Prep

Updated on: November 14th, 2023

Child Marriage Restraint Act or the Sharda Act was passed on 28 September 1929 by the Imperial Legislative Council of India to fix the marriageable age for girls at 14 and boys at 18 years. It was adjusted to 15 for girls and 21 for boys following India’s independence in 1949. In 1978, the age limit was raised to 21 for boys and 18 for girls. The Sharda Act is named after Har Bilas Sarda.

The Child Marriage Restraint Act was passed with the planned mission of eradicating the evil of child marriage from the country. The legal age of marriage is currently 18 for boys and 21 for girls, as determined by the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, of 2006, respectively. Below, you will learn about the Sharda Act 1929, its features, objectives, significance, and major drawbacks.

Child Marriage Restraint Act

The Imperial Legislative Council of India approved the Child Marriage Restriction Act, 1929 on September 28, 1929, setting the marriage age for girls at 14 and for boys at 18. It was changed to 15 for females in 1949, and then to 18 for girls and 21 for boys in 1978, following India’s independence. After its supporter Harbilas Sarda, it is commonly referred to as the Sharda Act.

Highlights Details of the Sharda Act
Title Act to define the age of marriage in India
Enacted 28 September 1929
Commenced 29 September 1929
Enacted by Imperial Legislative Council under British India

Any sexual contact with a girl under the age of ten was illegal under the Indian Penal Code, which was implemented in 1860. The Age of Consent Bill 1927, which made nuptials with girls under the age of twelve illegal, updated the rape clause in 1927.

Sharda Act

The Sharda Act is the commonly used name for the Child Marriage Restraint Act.The social reform movement in India led to the Sharda Act. The British Indian Government, which was predominately made up of Indians, enacted legislation against heavy resistance from the British authorities. The Sharda Act entered into effect on April 1st, 1930, and it applied to all of British India.

Sharda Act Notes

The Child Marriage Restraint Act can be cited as the first example of social reform issues taken up by the organized women of India. They played a major role in the development of arguments by actively using the device of the political petition. Organized women’s associations met with pro-reform leaders like Motilal Nehru to seek support for the bill. All-India Women’s Association group also made Gandhi address the evils of child marriage in his speech. The women’s organization was successful in bringing liberal feminism to the forefront.

Evolution of Child Marriage Restraint Act

In order to outlaw the pervasive practice of underage marriage in India, Rao Sahib Haribilas Sarda introduced the Sharda Bill in the Legislative Assembly of the Government of India during the years 1928–1929. On September 28, 1929, during Lord Irwin’s viceroyalty, the Imperial Legislative Council of India passed the Sharda Act 1929, also known as the Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929. The Act is named after the judge and Arya Samaj member Harbilas Sarda.

  • On April 1st, 1930, the Sharda Act became law. The Sharda Act relates to preventing boys and girls under the age of 14 and 18 from getting married. It applies to all Indians, regardless of caste or race, and it encompasses the entirety of India.
  • To increase the effectiveness of the existing law, the Act was revised in 1978 with the passage of the Child Marriage Restrain Act. It raised the minimum age requirement for both genders by three years, making it 18 for girls and 21 for males.

Objectives of the Sharda Act – Child Marriage Restraint Act

The Child Marriage Restraint Act was created to forbid or restrict child marriages. With only 12 components, the Sharda Act of 1929 was brief in and of itself. It defined what “minor”, “child,” “child marriage,” and “contracting parties,” meant.

  • The Sharda Act imposes severe penalties on men who marry children under the age of 21, with different sanctions for those who are underage and those who are overage.
  • It is noteworthy that despite the Act’s intention, child marriage was not outlawed because it fell outside of its purview.
  • The Sharda Act was a crucial milestone in the development of society and the outlawing of child marriage. Yet, it turned out that this legislation was not effective in eradicating the social problem of child marriage.

Features of Sharda Act 1929

The features of the Sharda Act or the Child Marriage Restraint Act 1929 are-

  • According to Child Marriage Restraint Act, the child is any female below the age of 18 years and a male below the age of 21 years.
  • The term “child marriage” refers to the illegal event of the marriage of contracting parties of the child.
  • The term “contracting parties” refers to the marriage wherein either of the two or both parties is solemnized.
  • Minor is any individual below the age of 18 years.
  • If a male is 18 yrs to 21 yrs, then he is punished with simple imprisonment up to 15 days or a fine of Rs 1000 or both.
  • If a male is above 21 years of age and marries a child, he will be punished with imprisonment of three months and a fine.
  • If parents are involved, they will be punished with imprisonment of three months along with a fine.
  • If the offenses were cognizable offenses, then the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 shall apply to these offenses for investigation purposes, for matters except referred to in section 42 and arrest without Magistrate order or a warrant.

Drawbacks of the Child Marriage Restraint Act

The Sharda Act’s limitation is that no court could take cognizance of any offense under the Child Marriage Restraint Act 1929 on the expiry of a year from the date the alleged offenses have been committed. This resulted in diluting the efficacy of the law. Child Marriage Restraint Act only forbade the solemnization of marriage. Additionally, the Act contradicts both Article 16(2) of the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which specifies that a child marriage shall not have legal consequences, as well as the child rights provisions of Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006, the most recent law on child marriages, has three objectives:

  • to prevent child marriages,
  • to safeguard children from such marriages, and
  • to prosecute violators.

The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 further adds that child marriage is a cognizable offense that is not punishable by bail. Additionally, it invalidates such solemnization, in contrast to the 1929 statute.

Prohibition of Child Marriage (Amendment) Bill, 2021

In 2021, action was taken to increase the minimum age of females in India. The major highlights of the Prohibition of Child Marriage (Amendment) Bill, 2021 are as follows-

  • The minimum legal age of marriage for females is increased from 18 to 21 years.
  • The Child Marriage Restraint Act 2006 allowed the person married below the minimum legal age to apply for annulment within five years of attaining the age of minority. Prior it was just 2 years.
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