Couples who self-register marriages may refrain from public declaration: SC
Section 7A states that a marriage can be solemnised in front of friends, relatives, family, and other people, even in the absence of a priest
The Supreme Court overruled a Madras High Court judgment which held that the marriages performed in the offices of the advocates are not valid as per the Hindu Marriage Act 1955.
A bench of Justices S Ravindra Bhat and Aravind Kumar stated that the case in front of the Supreme Court was one based on the self-marriage system as per Section 7A of the Hindu Marriage Act. This was included in the Hindu Marriage Act by a Madras Amendment of 1967.
The apex court observed that the couples intending to marry may refrain from making a public declaration due to varied reasons, such as opposition or fear for their lives and safety. In such cases, enforcing a public declaration could put lives at risk and could result in forced separation.
Section 7A states that a marriage can be solemnised in front of friends, relatives, family, and other people, even in the absence of a priest.
However, in 2014, a division bench of the Madras High Court in S. Balakrishnan Pandiyan v Inspector of Police held that marriages performed by the advocates are not valid and that Suyammariyathai marriage (self-respect marriage) cannot be solemnised in secrecy.
Earlier this year, the Madras High Court refused to rely upon a self-respect marriage certificate issued by an advocate and dismissed a habeas corpus petition filed by a man who alleged that his partner was under illegal detention of her parents. The HC also asked the police to initiate action against advocates who issue such “fake marriage certificates”.
Aggrieved, the petitioner approached the Supreme Court. During the hearing, the court had sought the opinion of the woman from the District Legal Services Authority. She said that she wanted to live with the petitioner.
During the hearing in the apex court, the bench noted that the view express by the Madras High Court in this case was wrong. “It is premised on the assumption that each marriage requires a public solemnization or declaration. Such a view is rather simplistic because often due to parental pressure, couples intending to enter into matrimony may not enter into it for the reason of such opposition, hold or give such public declaration, as doing so would imperil their lives and could very likely result to threat of bodily integrity, or forcible or coerced separation,” said the bench.
The SC bench observed that advocates are officers of the court. “While acting as an advocate, they should not undertake or volunteer to solemnise marriages. However, in their private capacity as friends as relatives, their roles as witnesses cannot be ruled out,” said the SC bench.