The movie ‘Luka Chuppi’ is filled with fun, emotions, ethics and is a perfect replica of the social reality. The portrayal of religion being attached to political agenda is the focus of the movie. It shows how political leaders extract votes and fool the public in the name of protecting the Indian culture. The movie also depicts the problematic rituals and stereotypes of Indian society with utmost amount of comedy. It is a great film which will make you giggle and realise the problems in the society at the same time. Through this article, I will be reflecting upon the inherent loopholes in the hindu law with respect to saptapadi and the urgent need to bring transformation in these laws. In order to highlight these loopholes, I will use the movie ‘Luka Chuppi’ as the hypothetical.
Background of the movie
The main characters of the movie are Rashmi and Guddu. Abbas is their supportive friend. They all work together in a local news channel. While Guddu wanted to marry Rashmi, Rashmi wasn’t ready for it and insisted on having a live-in relationship for a few days to check each other’s compatibility. The twist in their story arises as Rashmi’s father is the leader of radical right wing political party ‘Sanskriti Raksha Mantri’. Their agenda involved beating, shaving heads & blackening the faces of the couples found in a live-in relationship. Nevertheless, the couple started staying in a rented flat as ‘married couple’ to escape the suspicion of their neighbours. Accidentally, Guddu’s family finds out the truth and arrives at their residence. They see the couple’s marriage pictures(fake photos) and got the impression that they are married. The couple’s families were shocked on discovering the truth but were also relieved that the couple were not in live-in relationship. Since, the elections were upcoming, Rashmi’s father was tensed about his reputation. To control the situation, he tells media that his daughter is getting married in private as it was the last wish of Rashmi’s grandfather to let her marriage be a private affair. At last, Rashmi comes to Guddu’s house and both the families accept them. However, they felt awkward as they are not married in reality. Rashmi gets emotional as she was lying to her family who accepted their relationship wholeheartedly. To bring Rashmi out of this pain, Guddu makes his mind to marry her. They made several attempts to marry without letting their families know about it. They failed to perform ‘saptapadi’ in those attempts but at the end got married.
I am going to analyse their various attempts to marry each other that points out the significance of ‘saptapadi’ in Hindu religion and makes the ‘intent to marry’ irrelevant. The first attempt to marry each other was when Rashmi’s father had invited the guests and told them that the couple are getting married in private. Rashmi and Guddu found this as a good opportunity to carry out ‘saptapadi’ in private but could not do so due to multiple reasons. However, feast was organized for guests and there were marital ceremonies like ‘bidai’, striking vessel of rice with foot before entering Guddu’s house, Rashmi giving her palm prints on the wall. The issue here is whether all these ceremonies would constitute solemnization of marriage under ‘section 7 of Hindu Marriage Act’. The answer would be a ‘No’. The court has held in ‘Bhaurao Lokhande v. State of Maharashtra’ that in order to solemnize a marriage, the essential ceremony of ‘saptapadi’ as mentioned under section.7 of the Act must be performed. If this ceremony is not performed then even if other ceremonies are performed, the marriage would become void. Further, it was held in ‘S Nagalingam v Sivagami’ that if some Hindus don’t recognize ‘saptapadi’ as their essential ceremony, then their marriage will remain solemnized even without performing ‘saptapadi’. In this hypothetical, it can be ascertained from several scenes that ‘saptapadi’ is an essential ceremony in both their families and its non-performance would make the marriage void.
The second instance to marry also fails and they had to escape from the temple without performing ‘saptapadi’ as the priest grew suspicious about them. However, Rashmi always wore ‘sindoor’ and ‘mangalsutra’.
The third attempt to marry each other was when Abbas insisted the couple to take ‘saptapadi’ around a vessel with burning newspaper inside it used as the sacred fire. Abbas played the mantra on his phone. However, the couple could not perform ‘saptapadi’ as Abbas’s mobile data exhausts and mantra stops playing. The issue here is whether the marriage would have been solemnized under ‘section. 7 of Hindu Marriage Act’, if ‘saptapadi’ was completed. The answer is that if the couple had performed saptapadi, the marriage would have been solemnized. “Under Hindu Marriage Act, a priest is not compulsory for the performance of ‘saptapadi’ and a marriage is valid even if priest is not present in any ceremony.” “Furthermore, a ‘sacred fire’ is not defined anywhere and so even if the couple are performing ‘saptapadi’ around a bundle of agarbattis, the marriage would be valid.” Hence, in the present case, ‘saptapadi’ would be valid even if it was performed around a vessel with burning newspaper inside it. Later, in fourth attempt they performed ‘saptapadi’ successfully and their marriage is finally solemnized.
This movie reflects the necessity of ‘saptapadi’ to complete a marriage. The couple tell lies, change faces and try ‘saptapadi’ at home to solemnize their marriage. They did everything a married couple does, from performing marital ceremonies, to getting blessings of their families and living together, but still non-performance of saptapadi, will render their marriage void. What if either of them had married for the second time? Though they married with an intent to become married couple, their marriage will have no legal validity until they have performed ‘saptapadi’ and the second marriage would be valid provided ‘saptapadi’ is performed. “In a particular case, the defendant put the plaintiff ‘sindoor’ and ‘mangalsutra’ in a flat and started staying with her. After sometime, he married another woman, the court declared first marriage void on the ground that ‘saptapadi’ wasn’t performed.” This case highlights how the concept of ‘saptapadi’ can be easily manipulated.
According to Shastric laws, Hindu marriages are sacraments and not contracts. ‘This has been affirmed in several judgements also’. In ‘Priya Bala Ghosh v Suresh Chandra Ghosh’, the husband marries second time but did not perform ‘saptapadi’. This made his second marriage void and so he was not convicted for bigamy under ‘section 494 Indian Penal Code’. In this case, there was a clear intent to marry as no one would jokingly perform marital ceremonies, but in order to escape punishment for bigamy, he did not perform ‘saptapadi’. The loophole is that ‘performance of saptapadi’ is more important than ‘intent to marry’. In any contract, ‘intention’ is of utmost essence. “As per Hindu law, if this ‘intention’ is considered essential while solemnizing marriages then, the value of marriages would be reduced to a mere contract.” This will hurt the defining feature of Hindu marriages. Now, the literal interpretation might suggest the second marriage to be void due to the non-performance of saptapadi. But the purposive interpretation does not help us arrive at the conclusion that ‘saptapadi’ must be used to escape punishment for bigamy. The purpose of ‘saptapadi’ is to maintain the sacrament value of marriages, it is surely not been made to let people escape from the punishment of bigamy. Such misuse of the important ceremony is against the public at large. A law deterring persons from such conduct must be made. Rules such as presence of a witness during saptapadi can be made. This will neither allow the misuse of Hindu law nor mandate an ‘intention to marry’.
Rule must be used only for its purpose and justice must be chosen over rules which cause sufferings. Justice is the purpose of constitution and rules should never be allowed to override it. Other than, reasons of justice, our essential ceremony will lose its essence if it be used to take advantage. Hence, not only do the people need to be protected but also the purity and integrity of the ceremony.
Image : Telegraph
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