As arrests in child marriage cases in Assam crossed 2,500, the biggest challenge is now to file charge sheets within the time frame, Director-General of Police (DGP) GP Singh said on Tuesday. Speaking to PTI, he said the police have no aim of harassing anyone, but its objective is to stop child marriage altogether in the state within two-three years.
"We have registered 4,074 cases and over 2,500 people have been arrested till this morning. All the accused in these cases have been identified and they will be arrested and charge sheets filed against them," Singh said on the sidelines of the Y20 Summit here. "The biggest challenge now is to file the charge sheets within the 60 to 90 days time frame," he added.
The Assam Police launched a crackdown on child marriages on Friday, making over 2,000 arrests within the first two days. On the 65 accused procuring bail, the police chief said the focus is on ensuring charge sheets are filed within the stipulated timeframe.
"Bail is okay. To me, it is not important who stays in jail for how long. It is important that they have to be charge-sheeted and they face the music of law," he asserted. Singh said the basic idea behind the operation is to minimise child marriages this year, and stop it completely in the state within two-three years.
"Addressing the issue on basis of law is one thing. This is also a kind of awakening that this (child marriages) will not be tolerated. "While the arrests are good and we will take lawful action, the basic idea is to stop child marriages. Harassment is not our aim, our aim is that child marriage is stopped," he said.
Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma had earlier asserted that the drive will continue till the 2026 assembly elections and justified the crackdown, pointing out that nearly 17 per cent of over 6.2 lakh pregnant women last year were teenagers in the state. The opposition has criticised the manner in which it is being carried out, equating the police action with "terrorising people".
Family members of those arrested have also been protesting against the operation. The state cabinet recently approved a proposal to book men who have married girls below 14 years under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO). Cases under the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 will be registered against those who have married girls in the age group of 14-18, the cabinet had decided.
The offenders will be arrested and the marriages declared illegal. Assam has a high rate of maternal and infant mortality, with child marriage being identified as the primary cause, according to the National Family Health Survey (NFHS).