Supreme Court says mere registration in absence of ceremony not a valid marriage under Hindu Marriage Act

The court stressed marriage is sacred under the Hindu Marriage Act for it provides a lifelong, dignity-affirming, equal, consensual and healthy union of two individuals.
shish Tripathi
Last Updated : 01 May 2024, 02:10 IST
Last Updated : 01 May 2024, 02:10 IST

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New Delhi: The Supreme Court has said mere registration of marriage in absence of a proper ceremony would not be valid under the Hindu Marriage Act, which recognises it as 'samskara', a sacrament to be followed assiduously, strictly and religiously.

A bench of Justices B V Nagarathna and Augustine George Masih deprecated the practice of young men and women seeking to acquire the status of being a husband and a wife to each other in the absence of a valid marriage ceremony.

The court stressed marriage is sacred under the Hindu Marriage Act for it provides a lifelong, dignity-affirming, equal, consensual and healthy union of two individuals.

"In the absence of there being any such marriage in accordance with Section 7 of the Act, a certificate issued in that regard by any entity is of no legal consequence," the bench said.

It said any registration of a marriage as per the rules made by the state government would not be evidence of a Hindu marriage.

"In recent years, we have come across several instances where for “practical purposes”, a man and a woman with the intention of solemnisation of their marriage at a future date seek to register their marriage on the basis of a document," the bench said.

Hearing a transfer petition, the court noted the couple, who worked as commercial pilots, acquired a marriage certificate from Ghaziabad's based Vadik

Jankalyan Samiti (Regd) on July 07, 2021 and used it for registration of marriage under the Uttar Pradesh government rules. They had then decided to perform the marriage ceremony on a future date in October, 2022, but meanwhile differences cropped up among them, resulting into filing of multiple cases including dowry harassment and divorce.

"We note that parents of young couples agree for registration of a marriage in order to apply for Visa for emigration to foreign countries where either of the parties may be working “in order to save time” and pending formalising a marriage ceremony. Such practices have to be deprecated," the bench added.

Emphasising sacredness of the institution of marriage in Indian society, the bench said, a marriage is not an event for ‘song and dance’ and ‘wining and dining’ or an occasion to demand and exchange dowry and gifts by undue pressure leading to possible initiation of criminal proceedings.

"A marriage is not a commercial transaction. It is a solemn foundational event celebrated so as to establish a relationship between a man and a woman who acquire the status of a husband and wife for an evolving family in future which is a basic unit of Indian society," the bench said.

The court said marriage is considered to be an event that confers salvation upon the individual especially when the rites and ceremonies are conducted. The customary ceremonies, with all its attendant geographical and cultural variations is said to purify and transform the spiritual being of an individual.

The bench said the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 solemnly acknowledges both the material and spiritual aspects of this event in the married couple’s lives. Besides providing a mechanism for registration of marriages in order to confer the status of a married couple and acknowledge rights in personam and rights in rem, a special place is given to rites and ceremonies in the Act.

"The genesis of a sacred process cannot be a trivial affair. The sincere conduct of and participation in the customary rites and ceremonies under Section 7 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 ought to be ensured by all married couples and priests who preside over the ceremony," the court said.

"The promises made to each by the parties to a Hindu marriage and the oath taken by them to remain friends forever lay the foundation for a life-long commitment between the spouses which should be realised by them. If such commitment to each other is adhered to by the couple, then there would be far fewer cases of breakdown of marriages leading to divorce or separation," the bench added.

In the case, the bench quashed three cases filed against each other by the couple as they agreed their marriage was not a valid one.

Published 01 May 2024, 02:10 IST

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