SPECIAL MARRIAGE ACT: WHO AND HOW A PERSON CAN MARRY UNDER ACT

India is a country with full of culture and tradition. In India, there are many religions other than Hinduism, such as Sikhism, Buddhism, Jainism, etc. There are people from many other religions residing in India like Muslims, Christians, and Parsis. In addition, casteism inside the religions is one of the major factors governing the policies of India.

Marriage considers the most sacred institutions around the globe. In India, all marriages can be registered under the respective personal law Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, Muslim Marriage Act, 1954, or under the Special Marriage Act, 1954. Judiciary ensures that the rights of both the husband and wife are to be protected. The Special Marriage Act, 1954 is an Act of the Parliament of India with provision for civil marriage for people of India and all Indian nationals in foreign countries, irrespective of religion or faith followed by either party.

A marriage under the Special Marriage Act, 1954 allows people from two different religious backgrounds to come together in the bond of marriage. The Special Marriage Act, 1954 lays down the procedure for both solemnization and registration of marriage, where either of the husband or wife or both are not Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, or Sikhs.

Who can marry under the Act?

A marriage under the Special Marriage Act, 1954 allows people from two different religious backgrounds to come together in the bond of marriage. Therefore, a special law enacted to provide for a unique form of marriage by registration wherein the parties to the marriage do not have to renounce their religion.

  • Applicability

This information is the most important for every Indian to know how they can use it. This Act includes Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Jains, and Buddhists marriages. This act applies to all Indian states, except Jammu & Kashmir. This Act applies not only to Indian citizens who belong to different castes and religions but also to Indian nationals who live abroad.

  • Conditions for Marriage

According to Section 4 of Special Marriage Act, 1954, for this special form of marriage, the conditions that must be followed are not very different from the requirements of other normal marriages that happen within the caste.

These are the conditions to qualify for a marriage under this Act:

  1. The bridegroom must be at least 21, and at the time of the marriage, the bride must be at least 18 years of age. This is the minimum age limit respectively for a boy/girl to marry. 
  2. At the time of their marriage, both parties must be monogamous; i.e., they must be unmarried and at that time should not have any living spouse. 
  3. In order to be able to decide for themselves, the parties should be mentally fit, i.e., they must be sane at the time of marriage.
  4. They should not be related to themselves through blood relationships; i.e. they should not be subjected to prohibited relationships that otherwise act as a ground for dissolving their marriage. 

Procedure of Marry under the Act

The Special Marriage Act, 1954 lays down the procedure for both solemnization and registration of marriage, where either of the husband or wife or both are not Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, or Sikhs.

Provisions of procedure for marry under the Act-

  • Section 5 of the (Act) deals with Notice of intended marriage

 It requires that a notice of intended marriage to be given by the parties to the marriage to the Marriage Officer of the district where at least one of the parties to the marriage has resided for a period of not less than thirty days immediately preceding the date on which such notice is given.

  • Section 6 of the Act  deals with Marriage Notice Book and publication

  It mandates that all such notices received shall be entered in the marriage notice book and the Marriage Officer shall publish a notice by affixing a copy thereof to some conspicuous place in his office,

 Sections 6(2) and 6(3): The provisions under the Act require parties to an intended marriage to publish their private details for public scrutiny 30 days prior to the intended marriage.

  • Section 7 of the Act deals with Objection to marriage

It enables any person before the expiry of 30 days from the date on which such notice has been published, to object to the marriage on the grounds that it will contravene one or more of the conditions specified in section 4. The nature of the objection shall be recorded in writing by the Marriage Officer in the Marriage Notice Book, be read over and explained if necessary, to the person making the objection and shall be signed by him or on his behalf.

  • Section 8 of the Act deals with Procedure on receipt of objection.-

 If an objection is made under section 7 to an intended marriage, the Marriage Officer shall not solemnize the marriage until he has inquired into the matter of the objection and is satisfied that it ought not to prevent the solemnization of the marriage or the objection is withdrawn by the person making it, but the Marriage Officer shall not take more than thirty days from the date of the objection for the purpose of inquiring into the matter of the objection and arriving at a decision.

 If the marriage officer finds that the objection is valid and decides against the marriage of the parties concerned, the bride or groom may, within thirty days of such refusal, appeal to the district court. If all the objections concerned are dealt with, a declaration must be signed by the bride, groom, and any three witnesses in the presence of the Marriage Officer, who would then countersign it. The marriage will be solemnized upon the cessation of the objection period in the absence of any objections.

  • Section 9 of the Act deals with Powers of Marriage Officers in respect of inquiries.―

 For the purpose of any inquiry under section 8, the Marriage Officer shall have all the powers vested in a civil court under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 , when trying a suit in respect of the following matters, namely:―

i) Summoning and enforcing witnesses’ attendance.

ii) Examining the witnesses on oath.

iii) Demanding documents to produce.

iv) Demanding the evidence on affidavits.

v) Issue of commissions for the witness scrutiny.

In case of unreasonable objections, if the marriage officer believes that the objection he/she has received is not reasonable and is not made in good faith, the person making the objection may be on the receiving end of objective costs of up to Rs. 1,000. The sum received will be awarded to the parties of the proposed marriage for this purpose.

  • Section 10 of the Act deals with Procedure on receipt of objection by Marriage Officer abroad

Any objections regarding a proposed marriage made in Jammu and Kashmir State will be addressed by the respective Marriage Officer to the Central Government. The Central Government inspects the case on its own conditions and communicates its decision to the Marriage Officer, who then implements the decision ordered by the governing body.

  • Section 11 of the Act deals with Declaration by parties and witnesses

Before the marriage is solemnized the parties and three witnesses shall, in the presence of the Marriage Officer, sign a declaration in the form specified in the Third Schedule to this Act, and the declaration shall be countersigned by the Marriage Officer.

  • Section 12 of the Act deals with Place and form of solemnization

 The marriage may be solemnized either at the office of the Marriage Officer or at such other place within a reasonable distance from the office of the marriage officer or at such other place as the parties may wish.

  • Section 13 of the Act deals with Certificate of marriage.―  

After the solemnization of marriage, the Marriage officer issue a certificate in the form specified in the act in a book which is kept by him and it is called the Marriage Certificate Book and such certificate should be signed by the parties of marriage as well as the three witnesses. Thus, certificate is the conclusive evidence of fact that marriage and its proceedings are according to the provisions of the Act.

  • Section 14 of the Act deals with New notice when marriage not solemnized within three months.

Whenever a marriage is not solemnized within three calendar months from the date on which given under section 5, or from an appeal under section 8, and from the decision of the District Court on such appeal, and from the decision of Central Government under section 10, the notice and all other proceedings arising therefrom shall be deemed to have lapsed, and no Marriage Officer shall solemnize the marriage until a new notice has been given in the manner laid down in this Act.

Conclusion

The Special Marriage Act of 1954 is the only secular personal law in India other than the Guardians and Wards Act. A purpose of the Act is providing a uniform law for marriages across all boards and does not discriminate on the basis of their religion. The concept of inter- religious and inter- caste marriages found certain backing and support after the enactment of this law which provides for a wide ambit of provisions which aim at completely covering all aspects of marriage which one may deem important during the course of marriage and hurdles in the same.

References

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