- Christians are the second-largest religious minority community after Muslims in India. The marriage of Christian couples is governed by the Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872 which stipulates the primary condition of the presence of a priest of the Church or minister for the solemnization of the wedding.
- Section 4 of the Christian Marriage Act, 1872 (hereafter, the Act) provides for the conduction of Christian weddings under its provisions. By virtue of this Section, besides the marriage ceremony between a Christian and another Christian, the Act also legitimises a knot between a Christian and Non-Chrisitan provided it is solemnised under its provisions. In Subhashchandra Ishudas Parmar v. State of Gujarat, the learned High Court of Gujarat reinstated that a non-Christian marrying a Christian partner need not undergo proselytisation.
- Age of the bride and groom: The age of the bride and groom, just like other marriage laws, has been set as eighteen and twenty-one respectively within the Act. A proper consent of the marrying man and woman should be taken. Moreover, either of them should not be having an existing and living spouse at the time of the wedding.
- Notice for the planned marriage: stipulates the notification by either of the parties (provided they are residing within the same territorial limits) to the Minister of Religion regarding their intention of getting married as per the provisions of the Christian Marriage Act. In cases where they do not reside in the same areas, separate notices have to be sent to the respective district Marriage Registrars authorized in their areas about their intention of marriage. It is the responsibility of the Minister to issue certificates for solemnising the marriage post receiving the notices.
- In case one of the intending parties is minor, Section 15 provides for the Minister to return the notice within 24 hours or otherwise, forward it to the Senior Marriage Registrar or the District Marriage Registrar. The notice has to be returned within 24 hours under the provisions of section 13 of the Act.
- Section 5 of the Act prescribes a list of people who are competent or eligible to conduct the marriage valid under the Indian Christian Marriage Act. If the wedding is solemnised by anyone other than the mentioned people, that marriage shall have no legal standing and be deemed void. These are as follows:
- Provided the marriage is to be executed following the ceremonies, rules, rituals, and customs of the Church of Scotland, a Clergyman from the Church of Scotland is required to solemnise the marriage.
- A Minister of Religion who is listed and sanctioned under this Act for the purpose.
- A Marriage Registrar should either conduct or be a witness of the marriage ceremony of the couple.
- A legally licensed person under the provisions of the Indian Christian Marriage Act to grant marriage certificates to Indian Christians.
- The performance of the Christian marriage: The performance of the Christian marriage takes place between the parties in accordance with the customs and rituals authorized or deemed fit by the Priest or the Minister of Church. However, it is mandatory to have two witnesses other than the Church’s Priest or the Minister to be present in the ceremony.
Provided that the marriage fails to take place within sixty days of the issuance of the notice by the Minister of Religion, the marriage cannot be conducted until and unless a fresh application for the notice required for solemnization of marriage has been duly made.
- Registration of Christian Marriages under the Act: Part IV of the Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872 underlines the provisions providing for the marriage registration of a Christian Couple and thus providing their bond a legal validity. Individual registration of marriage by the parties in their respective area or territorial jurisdictions are to be made to the concerned authorities. The Registrar, who was present in the marriage and/or also conducted the same, shall register it in the Marriage Register. An acknowledgement slip is annexed to the Register as proof of the culmination of the marriage with the signatures of the two witnesses and the parties who have got married. Towards the completion of thirty days, the copies of these acknowledgement slips are sent to the Registrar General of Births, Deaths, and Marriages.
- There also exists a special provision under which the Indian Christian marriage can be sanctified even without any prior notice.
CONDITIONS & REQUIREMENTS
The marriage is legitimate only under the following conditions:
- The groom must be at least 21 years old.
- The bride must be at least 18 years old.
- The agreement between the two parties must be free and voluntary and without compulsion, undue influence, or threat of violence.
- The marriage must be witnessed by two reliable eye-witnesses and by a licensed marriage performer.
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