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This article is written by Somya, a student of 4th yr. LLB from Bangalore Institute of Legal Studies. 

‘Marriage’ is considered a sacred institution in our Indian subcontinent.  It is an integral part of our culture. India is a diverse country and thus has people from a number of religions and cultures, residing here.

When it comes to marriages in India, arranged marriages are considered the best way to get a boy and a girl to tie the marital knot. Indian parents are the ones who take utmost interest in it, right from the girl or boy they want their child to get married to, till the date and time of marriage. This is so because there prevails this thinking that they are a lot wiser and experienced than their children, and will decide the best for them. Indians consider marriage as an auspicious culmination of two souls, that they decide every ritual of marriage according to the astrological positioning of the stars of the bride and the groom.

 Earlier, marriages were commenced where the bride and the groom were unaware of who they were getting married to, as every decision was taken by their respective parents and meeting of bride and the groom was not a practice that prevailed (though this was in the ancient times), now times have changed and every decision relating to marriage is taken by the bride and groom themselves.

 We are aware of the extent of influence that caste and religion have in our country. And when it comes to marriage, it is considered the most important criteria for a properly solemnized marriage. Parents select the prospective bride/groom for their children from the same caste as theirs. Inter-caste marriage is still considered a taboo in many places in our country. India follows a very rigid structure of the caste system. People are expected to marry within their caste and whoever marries out of their caste and defy the traditional barriers are shunned in the society. There are a number of honor killings reported every year (highest being in the states of Haryana) and unfortunately, they show pride in doing so. Thus there came a grave need for a law to safeguard the interests of  those people who rose above these caste and religious divides, to marry for love. So the Parliament enacted the Special Marriage Act, 1954 which provides for a special form of marriage for the people of India and all Indian nationals in foreign countries, irrespective of the caste and religion they follow.

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Now it is very important that every Indian should know at least some of the basic things about the Special Marriage Act. Let us discuss 10 of those things-

  1. Scope of the Act

The Special Marriage Act deals with inter caste and inter-religion marriages.

Inter-caste marriage is a marriage between people belonging to two different castes. Gone are the days when people used to marry blindly wherever their parents decided them to. Now the youth has its own saying and choice and they prefer getting married to someone who has a better compatibility with them rather than marrying someone who belongs to their caste or their religion. It is them who have to live with their partner for the entire life and thus caste or religion is not a matter of utmost consideration at all now. Love is a beautiful emotion and it should not be weighed with something like caste or religion. All religions are equal and marriage amongst it should not be a big deal. Caste or religion is conferred on us by birth and not by choice, then why are people of lower castes seen with shame and disdain? India is a diverse country and things like this that happens here, is a thing of pity. Thus, the Special Marriage Act is a special legislation that was enacted to provide for a special form of marriage, by registration where the parties to the marriage are not required to renounce his/her religion.

 

  1. Application of the Act

This information is the most important one for every Indian to know as it is through this that they can avail them. This Act covers marriages among Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists. This act applies to every state of India, except the state of Jammu & Kashmir. This Act extends not only to the Indian citizens belonging to different castes and religions but also to the Indian nationals living abroad.

  1. Requirements

As Indians believe in marriages with proper rituals, customs and ceremonies involving pomp and show & extravagant celebrations, the Special Marriage Act does not require any of them. The basic requirement for a valid marriage under this Act is the consent of both the parties to the marriage. If both the parties are ready to marry each other, that suffices it; here caste, religion, race, etc. cannot and do not act as a hindrance to their union.

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For marriage under this Act, the parties need to file a notice expressing their intention to marry each other, with the Marriage Registrar of the district in which at least one of the parties to the marriage has resided for at least 30 days preceding the date on which such notice is being filed. The marriage is then said to be solemnized after the expiry of 30 days from the date on which such notice has been published. But if any person related to the parties objects this marriage and the Registrar finds it to be a reasonable cause of objection, then he can cancel the marriage on such grounds. For a valid marriage, it is also required that the parties give their consent to the marriage in front of the Marriage officer and three witnesses.

These are the basic requirements for a valid marriage under the Special Marriage Act, which every Indian must know.

  1. Conditions

The conditions required to be followed for this special form of marriage is not very different from the requirements of other normal marriages, which happen within the caste. These are the conditions to be eligible for a marriage under this Act: –

  • The bridegroom must be at least 21 and the bride must be at least 18 years of age at the time of marriage. This is the minimum age limit for a boy/girl to marry, respectively.
  • Both the parties must be monogamous at the time of their marriage; i.e. they must be unmarried and should not have any living spouse at that time.
  • The parties should be mentally fit in order to be able to decide for themselves e., they must be sane at the time of marriage.
  • They should not be related to themselves through blood relationships; i.e. they should not come under prohibited relationships, which will otherwise act as a ground to dissolve their marriage.
  1. Changes with the Emergence of Special Marriage Act in India

Since it is known that inter-caste or inter-religion marriages are still considered a taboo in our country the establishment of Special Marriage Act was a great urgency.

If we look at the positive side of these marriages, we can find that they have added to our national integrity. Unlike earlier times, nowadays people are attracted more to the opposite sex, belonging to other castes and seldom end up considering the communal side of it. People from higher castes tend to fall in love with people from lower castes and get married to them. What is important is the amount of love and affection between them regardless of the status and community they belong to. What we need to know is that Every Indian should change their mindset about the caste system in our country and appreciate marriages between different communities and religion. India is progressing with the increasing influence of education and thus they must know about the advantages of Inter-caste marriages too (yes there are advantages).

These marriages encourage equality amongst the citizens and as a result of it people try to interact more with each other and understand and respect each other and their differences. It sets an example for other people that how love and respect can create a free and happy generation, which is above the caste system and the evils of it.

  1. Legitimacy of children

A marriage is said to be void, where the conditions mentioned in point no.4 are not met with, and the children from such marriages who would have been legitimate if the marriage had been valid, shall be legitimate, whether such child is born before or after the commencement of the Marriage Laws (Amendment) Act, 1976 (68 of 1976), and whether or not a decree of nullity is granted in respect of that marriage under this Act and whether or not the marriage is held to be void otherwise than on a petition under this Act as mentioned in Sec.26 of the act.

  1. Application on succession Rights

Another important point that every Indian should have knowledge about SMA is that, the succession to property of persons married under this act or any marriage registered under this act and that of their children will be governed under the Indian Succession Act. But, if the parties to the marriage belong to Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh or Jain religions, then the succession to their property will be governed under the Hindu succession Act.

  1. Restriction on Divorce during 1st yr of marriage

Any person married under the Special Marriage Act, must know about this important provision of the Act. The parties cannot petition for divorce to the District court unless and until one year has expired from the date of their marriage as registered in the marriage books.  But, in cases where the court is of the opinion that the petitioner has suffered exceptional hardships or the respondent has shown exceptional depravity on their part, a petition for divorce would be maintained, but if any misrepresentation is found on the part of the petitioner to apply for divorce before the expiry of 1 yr, the court may if any order has been passed, state the order to take effect only after the expiry of 1 yr, as mentioned in sec. 29 of the Act.

  1. Can they remarry?

Talking, about the option of remarriage available to marriages of persons registered under SMA, one important thing that has to be paid attention is that, where the marriage has been dissolved and there is no right of appeal available, or there is no petition made for it in the required period, or appeal if presented is dismissed, then the parties may remarry, as provided by the Act.

     10. The general and legal Understanding

The general understanding is that only marriages in one’s own caste is sacred and auspicious while the legal aspects of it as discussed above, doesn’t make marriages under this act any less sacred or valid. Our Law under its provisions gives the right to every citizen to marry any person of their choice and have a happy life. But this opinion is supported as well as criticized by many. Some consider it to be valid, some not. The influence of arranged marriages over the love marriage has brought about this situation, which even after judgements and laws being passed more often in this respect, hasn’t brought about a major change in the mindsets of people who are in support and opinion of marriages within the religion and caste.

Conclusion

Hence, the above discussed general and legal aspects of Special Marriage Act, holds high importance not only for the people who have registered their marriage under the act but also to all the citizens of the country in order to have a better understanding of the law and treat the marriages between different castes and religions to be equally sacred and auspicious like the marriages between one’s own caste. With my article I assume to have made my point on Special Marriage Act which every Indian should know, and once they know, the country will surely become a better place to live with the crimes of honor killing and torture etc. to come to an end.

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29 COMMENTS

  1. I m in relationship with Muslim boy from 7 years, i want to know about the procedure to marry him. Both our family accepted us.my dad n his family accepted our relationship. Pls tell me about proceedures and which documents they need to get certificate.

  2. Can we do intercaste marriage
    Secretly as our parents or any member of family don’t know about the marriage……..plz help

  3. I married a Hindu boy in 2002 and both our parents were against us. I did not include his name in any of my government records I only have a marriage certificate. My husband died few years ago and his family took care of his rituals and did not even mention my name or he was married. Can I remarry now without saying I was married before?

    • Yes, offcourse you can remarry now. But why would you hide from people that you married once and sorry to say but your husband is no more. You are free to marry again, it’s your choice and your freedom. You don’t need anybody’s permission. As far as legal matter is concerned, nothing can stop you. Just for future safety purposes get a copy of your husband s death certificate

  4. My Name is David, I am Christian and my Girl is Hindu. Both family accepted for our Marriage and Engagement is happened on this Dec 2016 in Hindu style. on March 2017 we fixed Marriage in Hindu style. I ready to Marry my girl in Hindu style.
    how to register my Marriage under Special Marriage Act. We are planning to Marry in Big Marriage Hall. My concern here is, will I able to register my Marriage under Special Marriage Act post my Marriage by submitting Marriage photos, Invitation, Address proof etc. Kindly guide me on this. kindly give ur suggestion

    • As far as I know you can not register your marriage as others (having same caste marriages) do. You need to marry in sub registrar office once again. For that you need to submit your (both) details in sub-registrar office with 3 witnesses. After one month notice period they will give a date for marriage. That day you both need to sign in front of sub-registrar with 3 witnesses. That date will be taken as marriage day in marriage certificate. All the best.

    • Yes, you can do that. You just need to visit the marriage registrar office in your city with 3 passport size photograph of couple along with a 6 inch version of same photo , marriage invitation card , witness from each side and you are set to get a marriage certificate, thereafter include the spouse’s name in each of your passports.

  5. My father was Christian and Mother was Hindu. Both my parents followed and practiced their own religions. Also both respected each other’s religion and never I saw themselves fighting in the name of religion. However there were many times they faced criticism from their societies initially but later all was well except the church stopped formalities to our house and my father like yearly blessing the home, giving holy communion. Two of my elder brothers were baptized and the 1st was given holy communion. I am 3rd and did not receive any of the two. However I believe in both religion and practiced both. My mother wanted me to do her last rituals and so has done a ear piercing from my the local poojari. My passport says I am a Christian. I do not have anything to claim as a Christian formally. During my college days I went into depression and when I told my father he asked me my willingness which I accepted to take as Christianity.But the church was unwilling to do anything. My father passed away and his last rituals were done as per the Church. My mother also passed away and her last rituals were done as per the Hindu customs. I got married in ISCON temple as per Hindu rituals with a Hindu girl. Me and my wife go to both temple and church. Since she is used to visit frequently to temple she goes frequently. I have a daughter and we have not given her any religion yet. What is a succession rights I, my children have? Can me and my wife register under this special marriage act? What is the benefits of this act?

  6. I am hindu and i am loving a christian girl .is it possible to marry without changing each other. both desire to continue their own religion. please kindly give me reply.

  7. I hate this part of this act the most “Succession to the property of person married under this Act or customary marriage registered under this Act and that of their children, are governed by Indian Succession Act.However, if the parties to the marriage are Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh or Jain religion, the succession to their property will be governed by Hindu succession Act.”

      • In case the parties belong to different religions, or same religions but not Hindus, Sikhs, Jains or Buddhists the Indian Succession Act shall apply. If both the parties are either Hindus/Sikhs/Buddhists/Jains, the Hindu Succession Act will apply. Therefore, as far as your question is concerned, Muslims, if marrying under the Special Marriages Act, shall be governed by the Indian Succession Act.

    • The succession part is unclear and how does this promote equality?. While logically if both, bride and bridegroom, belong to a certain faith then then succession laws of that faith applies. But what if they are from different faiths? Would the law choose the bride’s or bridegroom’s religion to settle succession? If that’s the case then equality goes for a toss.

      As for securalism, the act does not address irreligious people, it assumes that a person needs to be of a certain faith. But that may be because of the article in the constitution. The whole act is half baked.

  8. In Condition Section you have mentioned that the Bridegroom and Bride must be unmarried but I wish to express that divorced Bridegroom and Bride can also got married under Special Hundu Marriage Act,1954.

  9. I am from Gorakhpur, U.P. India. My to be spouse is from Bangladesh. We have plans to get married in my native (Gorakhpur). Gorakhpur marriage registrar is saying that this marriage is not possible from Gorakhpur, please reach out to Delhi registrar !!!
    I am wondering that is it true that only few registrar are allowed to solemenise such marriages and the same is not available for all marriages in entire India ??? Please help

  10. Hi please guide me i belong to sikh family ,i married a legally divorced hindu girl on 10/05/2015 with consent of both the families my marriage was performed as per sikh rituals in guruduwara known as “Anand karaj”.now i want to register my marriage and obtain a marriage certificate .whether my marriage would be registered under Anand marriage act 1909 or hindu marriage act or special marriage act.please guide me.

  11. Govt. servant marriage with foreign nationals rules regarding prior intimation or permission is required. Whether such marriage is acceptable by the Govt.. When Govt servant already married foreign national, what happens then to the Govt. servant, does he still serves with the Govt. or does he have to reigned.

  12. A very thoughtfully written article. Though a student, the writer has brought a very important point which is that of equality when the rigid caste system does not allow marriages among castes. Another important aspect is that it does away with rituals, in which people unknowingly play into hands of others.

  13. Hi,

    I am married on 9th of March 2015 and it was a typical arrange marriage. Before marriage already told my husband that there is differences in your living culture any mine too so we don’t need to married he forced me that he will make suicide himself and I need to forcefully married him. I stay at my husband’s place for 4 days and we don’t have physical relationship I need some time to know him more. Than after I back to my families place. And after some time I realize I can’t stay with him anymore our mentality and his behavior is not matched with me. It’s almost an year I need divorce. What is the procedure. I want the alimony only the things my parents give me at the time of marriage. What should I do? Suggest!

  14. This is an informative article. You have clearly mentions the acts about India marriages that every one should know. There are lot of things that should be kept in mind before getting married. All things should be cleared and clean there should not be any doubt that can cause problems in future. Thanks for the article hope you will share these kind of article further.

  15. I just want ask that during 1 month of time if objections come from thier parents or thier community that we dont allow to this marriage because he is hindu our quran do not give permission then marriage get cancelled or not?
    If not cancelled then what reason that marriage can cancel..?

    • No! such objections from Parents are not valid legally.
      Some of the valid objects can be…. bride/groom or any of them are unfit for marriage, any of them are already married and has a living spouse, any of them already has a partner in (legal/illegal) relationship.

  16. Inter religion Marriage : What if the Couple have a Child before the Court Marriage. Will it hinder the marriage process in court Legally.

  17. This article is very impressive. I want a clarification. I am muslim and my wife is hindu. We married under special marriage act. My parents abandoned me because I married against their wishes. No communication from any of my relatives after marriage. My in-laws and their relatives are accepted and looking after my family as elders whenever their help is required. My question is regarding our son’s surname, cast and religion. Can I put my wife’s family name (sur-name), religion and caste to our son in school admission records?

  18. Great article! Informative.

    Quick question, how does the law extend to NRI’s? Are there any special requirements that need to be fulfilled or does the process of getting married under the Special Marraige Act remain the same?

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