Welcome move on marriage registration

Welcome move on marriage registration

In a report submitted to the government recently, the Law Commission has recommended compulsory registration of all marriages by amending the Registration of Births and Deaths Act, 1969, to include marriages. This is a welcome step to address the growing menace of desertions as well as social evils such as child marriages, polygamy, human trafficking and gender violence. The National Commission for Women had been canvassing for it since inception and brought out a draft Bill in 2005. The Supreme Court had also recommended it in a landmark judgement in 2006 following which several states, including Karnataka, passed laws for compulsory registration of marriages. A Bill on the subject was introduced in the 15th Lok Sabha, but lapsed with the dissolution of the Lok Sabha in 2014. A uniform central law is overdue and its absence deprives women of societal recognition and legal security.

Compulsory registration of marriages all over India will also enable keeping a record of all marriages, which will be available to anyone regardless of religion, region or customs and prove a check on matrimonial frauds. Such fraudulent marriages are especially on the rise among Non-Resident Indians. Compulsory registration can serve as a means to ensure that conditions of a valid marriage have been performed. In the pluralistic society of India, marriages are performed under various personal laws and some communities are sensitive to any interference with them. The Commission has, therefore, made it clear that its proposal does not interfere with the existing personal law of any community or “disturb any existing rights.” It only calls for the registration of marriages regardless of the law under which these are recognised or solemnised.

While the intention behind the Law Commission’s suggestions is noble, like any other social legislation, its efficacy will depend on its implementation. The state governments must ensure that there are enough registration offices in districts so that those who seek certificates are not put into hardship. The process of registration must be simple and decentralised so that people can avail it without too much expense or inconvenience. Most important, it should be transparent, non-coercive and corruption free. The conflict of
laws exist not only between different personal laws but also various other enactments dealing with child marriage, dowry prohibition, and medical termination of pregnancy etc. Under existing laws, the age of con-sent is 16, age for marriage is 18, however, if married, consent for sexual intercourse is deemed at 15. These overlapping and contradicting legislations will have to be borne in mind while framing the rules of registration.
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