After a 23-year-old man married a 16-year-old girl in Kandlakoya near Gundlapochampally of Malkajgiri-Medchal district in the outskirts of Hyderabad, child rights activists rescued the minor.
In a press release, Achyuta Rao from child rights organisation Balala Hakkula Sangham, said that the incident took place at a temple in Hyderabad on June 1 at 1 pm. The 23-year-old man is reportedly a daily wage construction worker, whose family hails from neighbouring Andhra Pradesh.
"As their parents did not accept theit relationship, they went to a temple and got married with the help of some other elders. As per the school bonafide certificate, the girl is 16-and-a-half years old. She will be at a rescue home till she becomes an adult," Medchal District Welfare Officer Swarupa Rani told TNM.
Achyuta, who brought the incident to the notice of the authorities, in a statement said that the "groom and families should be booked under section 376 (rape) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) besides relevant sections of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act."
He also demanded that the priest of the temple who performed the wedding should also be booked under POCSO Act and other sections of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006.
Speaking to TNM, police confirmed the incident and said that the teenager has been rescued.
"We have taken note of the incident. We are verifying on the ground about how the wedding took place and who are the accused in it. As of now, the teen is with members of the Integrated Child Protection Scheme after being rescued," Balanagar Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) Padmaja Reddy told TNM. "A case will be registered by the end of the day, after the ground report."
"A case will be booked against the temple priests, parents, those elders and everyone involved in the marriage," DWO Swarupa Rani said.
As per data released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) last year, crimes against children have been steadily increasing in the five southern states, including Telangana, from 2015 to 2017. In 2017, Telangana reported 3,580 crimes against children, which included 1,632 cases under the POCSO Act.