Salient features of Special Marriage Act 1954

The Special Marriage act was passed in 1954. It was passed with an intention to regulate marriage between two individuals (of the opposite sex) irrespective of their caste or religion . It applies to the whole of India except for the states of Jammu and Kashmir. It consists of 51 sections which are divided into 8 chapters. It mainly deals with inter-caste and inter-religion marriages. It also applies to Indian citizens that live abroad.

Conditions for marriage under the act

Section 4 of the Special Marriage act of 1954 deals with the various conditions to constitute a valid marriage. It prescribes 4 main conditions to constitute a valid marriage. 1)It does not allow Polygamy  and it deems a marriage void if neither of the parties has any spouse living at the time of marriage. 2) The parties to the marriage should be of sound mind and should be mentally stable. The parties should be able to take decisions for themselves and should be sane at the time of marriage 3) Both the parties to the marriage should have completed the prescribed age limit. At the time of application of the marriage the female party must be of atleast eighteen years of age and the male party must have completed twenty-one years of age. 4) The parties entering into marriage should not be in near relation to each other and should not be within the degrees of prohibited relationship with each other. The degrees of prohibited relationship is dependent on the customs practiced by the parties involved and varies from custom to custom. Schedule one of the act lists out the degrees of prohibited relationships, be that as it may the customs governing the individuals are given priority in general scenarios.  Only if these conditions are fulfilled, the marriage will constitute as a legal one. Other requirements to constitute a valid marriage is consent of the parties where both parties entering into the marriage should give appropriate consent. The willingness of both parties are taken into consideration. The caste or religion of either parties are not taken into consideration and will not act as barriers.

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Procedure for solemnization of marriage as per the act

Indian Marriages can be registered under personal laws such as Hindu Marriage Act 1954, Muslim Marriage act 1954 or can be registered under the Special Marriage act 1954.

Before entering into marriage, the eligibility check of the parties involved is mandatory to constitute a legal and valid marriage. The parties must be Indian citizens, must be of legal age and should fulfill other criteria mentioned in the conditions to marry under the act.

Section 5 of the act states that the parties shall give a notice in writing to the Marriage officer of the District and atleast one of the parties has resided for a period of not less than 30 days immediately preceding the date of such notice. The filing of the application must be in accordance to the prescribed format which is mentioned in schedule two of the act.

Section 6 of the act states that the original and true copy of the notice shall be filed in the ‘Marriage Notice Book.’  Once the application has been filed with the Marriage Officer, he/she will issue a thirty-day public notice to check for any objections to the marriage. The objections generally dealt with include non-compliance to any conditions or requirements as per the act.

Section 8 of the act states that after the publication of the notice, any person can raise an objection to the proposed marriage. On receiving any objection the Marriage officer must make necessary enquiry with respect to the objection and deal with it appropriately. His powers are similar to that of a civil court. In case of dissatisfaction with the findings and verdict of the Marriage Officer , an appeal can be filed before the District Court against the order within 3o days. On receiving any objection, the marriage officers are granted the power to summon and enforce the attendance of the witness’, examine the witness on the record and on oath, demand any document of proof to be produced, demand for any evidence on affidavits, issue commissions for the scrutiny of the witness. In case the Marriage Officer is convinced that the objection made to the marriage is unreasonable and not in good faith ,  he/she can levy a fine of up to One Thousand Rupees . If in case there are no objections , the marriage shall be solemnized after a thirty day period of issuance of the notice.

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Section 11 of the act states that the declaration of the marriage shall be signed by the parties to the marriage and three witnesses and the same should be verified and signed by the Marriage Officer.

Section 12 of the act states that the marriage may be solemnized at the office of the Marriage Officer or within the reasonable distance from the office. In case the marriage takes place outside of the office of the Marriage Officer, there should be payment of additional fees with respect to the same.

The solemnization is done by proclaiming their relationship in any language comprehendible by the parties . “I (a) take thee (b) to be my lawful wife( or husband ) “. It must be said in presence of the Marriage officer and three other witnesses

Section 13 of the act deals with certification of the marriage. On solemnization of the marriage, the marriage officer enters the marriage in the ‘Marriage Certificate book’ and issues a Marriage Certificate.

Implications

There are certain implications that may have to be faced by a member who marries under this act and is part of an undivided family system. Any member that professes the religion of Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, or Jainism will be forced to not be part of their family and will be forced to separate. Separate means not residentially but from the family hierarchy and will not be entitled to property or endowment from their ancestors.

Author: Anil George,
Christ University, 2nd year

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