The Bombay High Court on Monday directed district collectors and magistrate across Maharashtra to conduct a survey and identify areas where the instances of child marriages are prevalent [Dr. Rajendra Burma v. State of Maharashtra & Ors.].A bench of Chief Justice (CJ) Dipankar Datta and Justice MS Karnik was hearing a PIL raising concerns over malnutrition deaths in tribal areas of Maharashtra.During the course of hearing, the CJ Datta brought up the issue of prevalence of child marriages in the tribal pockets leading to pregnancies, which was a probable cause of malnutrition.“I have learnt from reliable sources that even in 2022, girls are married off at a young age. They are as young as 12-13 when they are married and they conceive before they are 15; which is why the mortality rate of the mother and child is higher. We must stop this practice,” CJ Datta said.“Whatever we spend will go down the drain unless we make them understand that 18 is the legal age of marriage. People need to be sensiitized about this issue if they want the girl children to survive”, CJ Datta warned..He acknowledged that tribal areas may have their own customs and practices, but expressed his confidence, that if the people in the tribal belts are sensitized about the law and how it is in their interest, then the girl child could be protected.“They can have their own traditions, but they must be sensitised that the law is in their interest. We have to save the girl children,” CJ Datta emphasized..The Court was informed by the petitioner that about 16 such pockets where child marriages are prevalent.The Court clarified that the surveys conducted were going to identify areas in Maharashtra which witnessed death due to malnutrition, especially in tribal pockets.The Bench directed the petitioner-advocates to submit the names of the districts that were prone to these issues..Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni informed the High Court that the State government was making constant efforts to sensitize the population and make healthcare accessible.He pointed out certain underlying issues in those tribal belts which were centred around child marriages.He stated that not only was early marriage an issue, the concept of family planning and birth control was not prevalent amongst the people.“With no birth control methods, there are multiple pregnancies, which takes a toll on the girl. People there also prefer going to a local medical practitioner called a ‘bumka’ who brings them to hospital only when the case goes out of his hand,” he apprised the Court.He also requested the petitioners to not treat the State as their adversary; the present PIL was just a way to bring about reformation in the tribal belts so as to ensure there are no deaths due to malnutrition..The Court was informed that since 1993 when the first PIL had been filed highlighting the issue of malnutrition, the High Court had passed several orders and directions to address the issue.After one such order, reports had been filed on the issue of malnutrition, including the present report filed by senior IPS officer Dr Chhering Dorje, which dealt with the accountability of state officials for spending the funds for the project.The Court clarified that the aspect of accountability of expense was not the main concern but what was important was the welfare of people.“Accountability of spending a single rupee is our secondary concern. The primary concern is the welfare and well-being of the people,” the Bench said.