Marriage under Christian Marriage Act, 1872

Every religion has their own laws for marriage and divorce. This article will provide the provisions for marriage under Christian law. Many Centuries ago, Christians came to India and settled in this country. When East India Company assumed ruling power in India and established its own courts. With the establishment of the Supreme Courts, the Common Law of England was made applicable to India on many subjects including marriage and divorce among the Christian community, on the ground that it was based on the principle of equity, justice and good conscience.

According to sec 3 of the Christian Marriage Act, 1872:-

“Christian means persons professing the Christian Religion”.

“Indian Christians includes the Christian descendants of natives of India converted to Christianity as well as such converts;

In KJB David v. Nilamoin Devi, AIR 1953 Ori 10, Orissa High court held that a person who profess the Christian religion may not be baptized, yet he would be a Christian for the purpose of this Act. In Maha Ram v. Emperor, AIR 1918 All 168, It was held that One does not become a Christian unless he profess the Christian faith though he might have been baptized as a child. InPakiam Salomon v. Chelliah Pillai, AIR 1924 Mad 18, it was held that A person would continue to be a Christian, even after ex communication if he continues to profess the Christian faith. It was suggested to LCI that a comprehensive definition of ‘Christian’ should be laid down to mean ‘one who is baptized and is a member of Church’. The same was considered in its 15th & 22nd Reports and decided against it.

Section 4 of this act provides the provisions for the solemnization of the marriage: Marriages to be solemnized according to Act.—Every marriage between persons, one or both of whom is [or are] a Christian, or Christians, shall be solemnized in accordance with the provisions of the next following section; and any such marriage solemnized otherwise than in accordance with such provisions shall be void.

In Syed Ahmad Sheriff v. Rajinamani, 1988 (2) HLR 615, it was held that:-

“In an alleged marriage between a Christian woman and a Muslim male, it was not shown that the marriage was celebrated in accordance with the provisions of this Act, the marriage was held to be void and the Christian wife was held not to be entitled for maintenance though children were”.

Section 5 provides:- Persons by whom marriages may be solemnized.—Marriages may be solemnized in [India]—

(1) by any person who has received Episcopal ordination, provided that the marriage be solemnized according to the rules, rites, ceremonies and customs of the Church of which he is a Minister;

(2) by any Clergyman of the Church of Scotland, provided that such marriage be solemnized according to the rules, rites, ceremonies and customs of the Church of Scotland;

(3) by any Minister of Religion licensed under this Act to solemnize marriages;

(4) by, or in the presence of, a Marriage Registrar appointed under this Act;

(5) by any person licensed under this Act to grant certificates of marriage between [Indian] Christians.

Marriage should be solemnized between the hours of six in the morning and seven in the evening and the place of marriage should be church. A person who solemnize marriage beyond these hours and outside the church in the absence of witness, without any special license has been made punishable u/s 69. There is one exception i.e. however made in case where a special license permitting a clergyman of the church is granted.

Conditions of marriage:-

Section 60 provides conditions of marriage:- On what conditions marriages of Indian Christians may be certificate:-

Every marriage between [Indian] Christians applying for a certificate, shall, without the preliminary notice required under Part III, be certified under this Part, if the following conditions be fulfilled, and not otherwise:—

(1) the age of the man intending to be married [shall not be under [twenty-one years]], and the age of the woman intending to be married [shall not be under [eighteen years]];

(2) neither of the persons intending to be married shall have a wife or husband still living;

(3) in the presence of a person licensed under section 9, and of at least two credible witnesses other than such person, each of the parties shall say to the other— “I call upon these persons here present to witness that, I, A.B., in the presence of Almighty God, and in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, do take thee, C.D., to be my lawful wedded wife or husband” or words to the like effect.

Section 9 of this act:- Licensing of persons to  grant certificate of marriage between Indian Christians

The [State Government] may grant a license to any Christian either by name or as holding any office for the time being, authorizing him to grant certificates of marriage between [Indian] Christians. Any such license may be revoked by the authority by which it was granted and every such grant or revocation shall be notified in the Official Gazette.

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