From personal laws to civil contracts, here are the different ways to marry in India
Any couple, regardless of community of origin, may marry under the Special Marriage ActThe Hindu Marriage Act also applies to anyone who is not a Muslim, Christian, Parsi, Jew or from an exempted scheduled tribeWhile Christian, Hindu and Parsi marriages are treated as a sacrament, Muslim marriages are considered a civil contract that requires no religious ceremonies or writing
In recent weeks, the debate over inter-faith marriages has taken centre stage yet again with several states considering implementing stricter laws. Here we take a look at the different ways in which India allows one to marry.
Special Marriage Act
Any couple, regardless of community of origin, may marry under the Special Marriage Act. This includes interfaith couples as well as those wish to opt out of personal law marriages. However, it is worth noting that, in practice, marrying under this law can prove to be problematic. Before one can marry under the SMA, a notice of intended marriage including names, addresses and photos of the marrying couple must be sent to the marriage registrar 30 days prior to the ceremony as well as displayed publicly.
Because anyone can object to this marriage with specified grounds, family members and community vigilantes can get in the way of couple’s plans to marry. Many have claimed that conditions under the SMA violate an individual’s basic right to privacy. The Supreme Court is currently hearing a case related to the same. What’s more, under the SMA, a woman is required to be, at least, 21 years of age but under Hindu personal law, she only needs to be 18.
Hindu Marriage Act
The personal laws relating to Hindu marriage and divorce were codified in the mid-1950s. The Hindu Marriage Act also applies to anyone who is not a Muslim, Christian, Parsi, Jew or from an exempted scheduled tribe. A man or a woman from any group or caste may marry under the HMA. However, the bride and the groom cannot be related by blood for a few generations. There is an exception to this rule which applies for communities where marrying one’s cousin is traditionally permitted.
Under the HMA, the marriage must be solemnised through the enactment of customary rites that apply to the bride or groom’s community. This is to say that improvised ceremonies are not considered valid. The saptapadi (seven steps taken around the sacred fire) was originally considered mandatory in the HMA, but other customs can also be treated as legally valid. There is a prescribed format for Arya Samaj weddings. The HMA also permits bigamy as long as the second wedding includes certain essential ceremonies. Section 9 permits the restitution of conjugal rights, which forces sexual cohabitation on an unwilling spouse.
While Christian, Hindu and Parsi marriages are treated as a sacrament, Muslim marriages are considered a civil contract that requires no religious ceremonies or writing. The Shariat Application Act of 1937 governs Muslim family law. Under this Act, a proposal and acceptance are mandatory, and consent for marriage must be free and sought without coercion. The contract also requires the dower paid by the groom to the bride.
The law permits the groom to have up to four wives (as per the Quran) without the approval of the first wife. However, treating all wives fairly is essential. In the Shafi, Maliki and Hanbali schools of Sunni law, consent of the guardian is required. In Shia jurisprudence, it is only a precaution. Moreover, temporary marriages are not valid under the Sunni jurisprudence but allowed in Shia law.
Divorce can be sought by Muslim women either through talaq-i-ahsan or talaq-i-hassan, depending on how the pronouncement is made. However, there is a mandatory period of three menstrual cycles required where reconciliation may be possible. The husband must continue to pay maintenance to the wide during this period. In 2017, the Supreme Court banned the pronouncement of Triple Talaq despite it being sanctioned as per the Hanafi school. A Muslim woman can divorce on specified round or via khula where she provides compensation to her husband via her property. Divorce through mutual consent is also possible.
Christian marriages are governed by the Christian Marriage Act of 1872 (Travancore-Cochin area, Manipur and J&K are exempt). Under this Act, at least one of the marrying parties must Christian and the marriage ceremony must be carried out by an ordained priest of that particular church. It can also be solemnised by a minister of religion or a specified married registrar. Moreover, it needs to be solemnised between 6 am and 7 pm in a church where standard form worship is followed, unless in cases where there is no church within a radius of five miles. However, there are some exceptions outlined in Section 9. New provisions implemented in 2001 were done so to make divorce easier for women under this Act.
A Parsi marriage is governed by the Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act of 1936 which states that a marriage must be solemnised by a priest in the presence of, at least, two Parsi witnesses. Although there is a religious ashirvad ceremony, Parsi marriage is also contractual similar to a Muslim marriage. Under this Act, the bride and groom cannot be related upto a particular degree of consanguinity. Special Parsi courts with a jury system adjudicate divorce cases. Similar to other personal laws, the conversion of one spouse out of his/her religion could be grounds for terminating the marriage.
Courtesy : Times Now News