“Encourage inter-caste/inter-religion marriages, & one day there will exist no religion except humanity…!”
‘Marriage’ is considered a sacred institution in our Indian subcontinent. It is an integral part of our culture. India is such a diverse country, it is home to people of various religions and civilizations.
When it comes to marriages in India, planned marriages are thought to be the finest way to match a boy and a girl. Indian parents are the ones who are most concerned about it, from the girl or boy their child wants to marry to the date and time of the wedding. This is so because there prevails this thinking that they are a lot wiser and experienced than their children, and will decide the best for them. Indians regard marriage as the fortunate completion of two souls, and they base every wedding ritual on the astrological alignment of the bride and groom’s stars.
Previously, brides and grooms were uninformed of who they were marrying because every decision was made by their respective parents, and meeting the bride and groom was not a common practise (though this was in the ancient times), Now, circumstances have changed, and the bride and groom make all marriage-related decisions independently.
We are well aware of the impact that caste and religion wield in our nation. When it comes to marriage, it is widely regarded as the most significant criterion for a fully solemnised union. Parents choose a prospective bride/groom from their own caste for their offspring. In many parts of our country, inter-caste marriage is still frowned upon. India has a caste system that is quite rigorous. People are expected to marry within their caste, and those who marry outside of their caste and break customary barriers are despised by society. Every year, a number of honour killings are reported, and sadly, the perpetrators take delight in their actions. As a result, there was a pressing need for legislation to protect the rights of those who chose to marry for love, regardless of caste or religion. As a result, the SPECIAL MARRIAGE ACT, 1954 was created, which establishes a special form of marriage for Indian citizens and Indian nationals living abroad, regardless of caste or religion.
THE SPECIAL MARRIAGE ACT, 1954
SCOPE OF THE ACT-
The Special Marriage Act deals with inter caste and inter-religion marriages.
Marriage between people from two distinct castes is known as inter-caste marriage. Gone are the days when people married haphazardly based on their parents’ wishes. Nowadays, the youth have their own opinions and preferences, and they choose to marry someone who is more compatible with them rather than marrying someone from their caste or religion. They are the ones who will have to live with their partner for the rest of their lives, thus caste or religion is no longer a factor. Love is a lovely emotion that should not be weighted down by factors such as caste or religion. All religions are equal, and interfaith marriage should not be a problem. Why are members of lower castes treated with shame and disdain when caste or religion is bestowed upon us by birth and not by choice? India is a varied country, and it is unfortunate that incidents like this occur here. As a result, the Special Marriage Act is a unique piece of legislation that was enacted to allow for a unique type of marriage by registration in which neither party is compelled to renounce his or her religion.
APPLICATION OF THE ACT-
This information is the most important one for every Indian to know as it is through this that they can avail them. This Act covers marriages among –
- Any person, irrespective of religion
- Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, Jains, Sikhs, Christians, Parsis, or Jews can also perform marriage under the Special Marriage Act, 1954
- Inter-religion marriages are performed under this Act
- This Act is applicable to the entire territory of India and extends to intending spouses who are both Indian nationals living abroad
- Indian national living abroad.
CHANGES WITH THE EMERGENCE OF SPECIAL MARRIAGE ACT IN INDIA-
Since it is known that inter-caste or inter-religion marriages are still considered a taboo in our country the establishment of Special Marriage Act was a great urgency.
When we consider the positive aspects of these unions, we can see how they have contributed to our country’s integrity. Unlike in the past, people nowadays are more drawn to people of the opposite sex or from different castes, and they rarely consider the community side of things. People from higher castes are more likely to fall in love with and marry people from lower castes. What matters is the quantity of love and affection they share, regardless of their social standing or community. What we need to understand is that every Indian needs to adjust their mentality about our country’s caste structure and value marriages between people of different ethnicities and religions. India is progressing with the increasing influence of education and thus they must know about the advantages of Inter-caste marriages too.
These marriages promote citizen equality, and as a result, individuals try to interact more with one another and appreciate and respect one another’s differences. It serves as an example to others of how love and respect may result in a free and happy generation that is free of the caste system and its ills.
The Special Marriage Act does not require any of these things since Indians believe in marriages with correct traditions, customs, and ceremonies including pomp and show and lavish festivities. The consent of both parties to the marriage is the most basic criterion for a legitimate marriage under this Act. It suffices if both parties are willing to marry each other; caste, religion, race, and other factors cannot and will not be a barrier to their union.
The parties must file a notice declaring their desire to marry with the Marriage Registrar of the district in which at least one of the parties to the marriage has resided for at least 30 days prior to the date on which such notice is filed. After 30 days have passed from the date on which the notice was issued, the marriage is considered to be solemnised. However, if any relative of the parties opposes to the marriage and the Registrar judges it to be a reasonable cause of objection, the marriage might be annulled. For a valid marriage, it is also required that the parties give their consent to the marriage in front of the Marriage officer and three witnesses.
The prerequisites for this unique type of marriage are not dissimilar to the requirements for regular caste-related marriages. The following are the requirements for marriage under this Act: –
- The bridegroom must be at least 21 and the bride must be at least 18 years of age at the time of marriage. This is the minimum age limit for a boy/girl to marry, respectively.
- Both the parties must be monogamous at the time of their marriage; i.e. they must be unmarried and should not have any living spouse at that time.
- The parties should be mentally fit in order to be able to decide for themselves e., they must be sane at the time of marriage.
- They should not be related to themselves through blood relationships; i.e. they should not come under prohibited relationships, which will otherwise act as a ground to dissolve their marriage.
LEGITIMACY OF CHILDREN
When the aforementioned conditions are not met, a marriage is said to be void, and children from such marriages who would have been legitimate if the marriage had been valid, shall be legitimate, whether the child is born before or after the commencement of the Marriage Laws (Amendment) Act, 1976 (68 of 1976), and whether or not a decree of nullity is granted in respect of that marriage.
APPLICATION ON SUCCESSION RIGHTS
Another significant aspect of the SMA that every Indian should be aware of is that the Indian Succession Act governs the succession of property of persons married under this act or any marriage registered under this act, as well as their children. If the parties to the marriage practise Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, or Jain religions, the Hindu Succession Act governs the succession of their property.
LAND MARK CASES
Lata Singh v. State of UP
In this instance, the petitioner filed a plea with the Fast Track court in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, to dispute the trial pending adjustment originating from an abduction FIR. The petitioner had married a boy against her will and had a child out of wedlock. Her brother filed a missing persons report, and her husband’s sister and other family members were arrested by the police. It was believed that the petitioner’s brother was enraged by the intercaste marriage and had been harassing the petitioner’s husband’s relatives. The court ruled the petitioner was a major and that she was free to marry whom she pleased. The court also ruled that the caste system was a blight on the nation, separating it into numerous groups.
The court ruled that state government administrations across the country should take reasonable measures to guarantee that a boy or girl who marries outside of his or her caste or religion is not subjected to violence or harassment. The Fastrack Court proceedings were annulled, and instructions were provided to institute proper criminal actions against the petitioner’s brother.
Ashok Kumar Todi v. Kishwar Jahan 2011 3 SSC 758
This case involves an interfaith marriage between a Muslim boy and a girl. The couple informed the police authorities about the marriage via letter and marriage registration certificate. When the girl informed her parents about the marriage, they took her with them and instead of filing missing persons reports with higher police authorities, the boy’s body was discovered some days later.
The CID was assigned to the inquiry, while the family of the missing youngster filed a plea with the Calcutta High Court, which ordered a CBI probe. The accused person came before a division bench of the high court, and the single judge’s judgement was quashed. The decrease family went to the Supreme Court, where the single judge’s findings were upheld, and it was decided that the police authorities had gone too far in assisting the accused person, and that action should be taken against such officers.
Mayakaur Baldevsingh Sardar & Another v/s The State of Maharashtra
In this case, a boy and a girl fell in love and married, but when the girl told her parents about the relationship, they objected because the boy is from a lower caste and is financially poor. When the girl told her parents that she had married, they threatened her with grave consequences.
The girl moved out of her parents’ house and into her husband’s. On a beautiful day, the girl’s mother went to visit the girl, and the husband observed several individuals armed with weapons approaching the house. The husband, along with the rest of the family, was assaulted, and the girl was thrown from the balcony. She did not die, but she was severely injured.
Cognizance of the offence was obtained and the trial court awarded death penalty to four of the accused defendants. Because the High Court was split on the death penalty, the case was submitted to a third judge, who acquitted one of the defendants and sentenced the others to life in prison.
Arumugam Sher vs State of Tamil Nadu
Although this case had nothing to do with intercaste marriage, the issue of intercaste marriage was mentioned in this ruling by the Supreme Court. The facts of this case were that the court had adjourned a dispute relating to an altercation that occurred between certain people on the festival of Jallikattu, and they had engaged in a fight along with having engaged in a fight along with having engaged in a fight along with having engaged in a fight along with having engaged in a fight along with.
Shakti Vahini vs Union of India 2018 7 SSC 192
In this instance, a writ petition was filed, requesting that the state government and the federal government take appropriate actions to prevent honour killings. It was also requested that a national and state-level action plan be developed to create an effective policy in dealing with such crimes. It was also requested that the police construct a special sale that the spouses can approve for their safety and well-being.
Honor killing was deemed a major violation of human rights, and the state was tasked with ensuring that such crimes were prevented.
Anjan Kumar versus Union of India 2006 3 SSC 257
The appellant was born out of wedlock as a result of an inter caste marriage in which the father belonged to the forward class community and the mother belonged to the schedule tribe. The plant in this case received a certificate of being a scheduled tribe from the state authorities on the basis that the mother belonged to a scheduled tribe. When the results were announced, he was placed on the merit list, but no letter inviting him to join for training was issued to him. He made many requests to the authorities, but received no response, so he filed a petition seeking direction in this matter.
The supreme court held that the father of the appeal and came from a forward class category the apple and had to be brought up in an environment where he was not subjected to any disability. It was also held that the certificate of reservation is not to be distributed as a bounty but rather must be proven by the person requesting it that has suffered disability on the ground.
N E Horo vs Jahan Ara Jaipal Singh, 1972 AIR 1840
In this instance, A marriage was made in which the respondent was not a tribal and the decrease was a member of the Lok Sabha from my seat, which was reserved for the schedule tribe. After his death, his wife filed a candidacy to run for office. The wife could not contact elections since she was not a tribal member, and the marriage had no influence on her category or class, according to the appeal. The supreme court ruled that marriage outside The Munda tribe was not permitted, and that if such a marriage was contracted, a person would be socially recorded and excommunicated from The Tribe. However, it was noted that there were customary traditions. Where such a marriage by tribal elders could be allowed, it was held that the decrease had not excommunicated and was accepted. It was held that where such a marriage was accepted, a person who was not a tribal was allowed to enter the tribe as such the respondent in the instant cases was duly admitted to The Tribe and would have received the benefits of being a tribal.
Shafeen Jahan versus Ashokan K.M., 2018 SCC Online SC 343
This case is known as the Hadiya case because the girl had converted to Islam and was pursuing a medical degree. She had not seen her parents in a long time and her father was concerned. The Kerala High Court was served with a petition of habeas corpus. The young lady came in court and refused to accompany her father.
The court ruled that she be allowed to pursue her course and reside wherever she wanted. The father filed another petition saying that his daughter would be transferred out of the country. Various orders were granted, and the girl informed the court that she had married the boy on one of the hearings. The high court was caught aback by the events surrounding the parens partriae and ordered that the girl be escorted to her dormitory and that she not be permitted to use her phone until further directives were issued.
The girl’s husband appealed the High Court’s decision, and the Supreme Court ruled that the High Court had made a grave error, that the girl was not a minor, and that she was free to leave at her leisure. It was also ruled that the right to marry a person of one’s own choosing is protected by Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.
Mrs Valsamma Paul vs Cochin University AIR 1996 SC 1011
In this case, the appellant was a forward-thinking Christian who married a backward-thinking Christian. She applied for a job at the university under the reserved category for backward-thinking Christians, and he was hired. A letter a writ was filed in the High Court challenging her appointment, and the High Court allowed the writ, and the case was referred to the division bench.
Rameshbhai Dabhai Naika vs State of Gujarat 2012 3 SCC 400
The question before the court in this case was what would be the child’s status if the father is from a non-tribal caste and the mother is from a schedule tribe. In this case, the petitioners’ father was a Hindu and the mother was a tribal. The petitioner was denied all tribal certificates because his father was not a member of a tribal caste. It was decided that in this case, where the father is from a forward caste and the mother is from a backward caste, the child would not be entitled to the benefits granted to members of Schedule Caste and Schedule Tribe.
The presentation can be rebutted if the offspring shows that he was raised by his mother alone and had to deal with the same types of problems and harassment that his mother did. Each case must be examined on its own facts and circumstances, and no broad blanket rule can be formulated because the high court did not examine the evidence and take into account the circumstances.
Therefore, the above-mentioned general and legal aspects of the Special Marriage Act are critical not only for those who have registered their marriages under the act, but also for all citizens of the country, in order to gain a better understanding of the law and treat marriages between different castes and religions as sacred and auspicious as marriages between one’s own family members. With this, I believe I have made my point on the Special Marriage Act, which every Indian should be aware of, and once they are, the country would undoubtedly improve as crimes such as honour murders and torture will be eradicated.
- Registered Marriage Under Special Marriage Act, 1954
- The Special Marriage Act, 1954
- Family Law by Dr. Paras Diwan (Allahabad Law Agency)
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