Special Marriage Act, 1954: Objective, Conditions and Procedure

Recently, a PIL has been filed by a law student in the Supreme Court to challenge the validity of certain provisions of the Special Marriage Act (SMA), 1954, which call for making public personal details of the couple intending to marry. Such provisions seriously damaged one’s right to have control over one’s personal information and violated their right to privacy. The petitioner questioned Section 5 and Section 6 of the Act.

Section 5 of the Act required a notice of intended marriage to be given by the parties to the Marriage Officer of the district where at least one of the parties resided for at least 30 days immediately preceding the date of such notice. Whereas Section 6 of the Act mandates that talks about the publication of the notices by the Marriage Officer.

The petitioner contended that these provisions force the marriage parties to publish their private details and open for public scrutiny for 30 days before the marriage and allowed anyone to file objections to the marriage and empowered the Marriage Officer to inquire into objections filed, if any. Because of this, the petitioner submitted that these provisions violate the right to equality under Article 14 and the right to privacy under Article 21 (the Fundamental Rights) of the Constitution of India. The petitioner sought to highlight the fact that there was no such requirement of notice the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, and Muslim Law.

What is Special Marriage Act (SMA), 1954?

The Special Marriage Act, 1954 is an Act of the Parliament of India which is enacted to provide a special form of marriage for the people of India and all Indian nationals in foreign countries, in certain cases, for the registration of such and certain other marriages and for divorce, irrespective of the religion or faith followed by either party. The marriages solemnized under the Special Marriage Act are not governed by personal laws.

Objective of the Act

The main objective of the Act is to address inter-religious marriages and to establish marriage as a secular institution lacking all religious formalities which required registration alone.

Conditions for marriage under the Act

Following conditions are elaborated under the SMA for the marriage:

  • Both the parties that are involved should not have any other subsisting valid marriage. That is, for both the parties the resulting marriage should be monogamous.
  • The groom must be a minimum of 21 years old; the bride must be a minimum of 18 years old.
  • The parties should be competent in reference to their mental capacity to the extent that they’re able to give valid consent for the marriage.
  • The parties shouldn’t fall within the degree of prohibited relationship.

Procedure for marriage under the Act

The SMA elaborates the following procedure to get the marriage registered:

  • One of the parties to the marriage has to give notice of the intended marriage to the marriage officer of the district where at least one of the parties to the marriage has resided for at least 30 days immediately prior to the date on which such notice is given.
  • In the marriage notice book, such notice is then entered and published it by a marriage officer at some conspicuous place in his office.
  • The notice of marriage published by the marriage officer includes details of the parties such as names, date of birth, age, occupation, parents’ names and details, address, pin code, identity information, phone number, etc.
  • On various grounds under SMA, anybody can raise objections to the marriage. Within 30 days, if no objection is raised, then the marriage can be solemnized. If objections are raised, then the marriage officer has to inquire into the objections after which he will decide whether or not to solemnize the marriage.

The Court Marriage is a consortium of two souls where oath ceremony is performed according to Special Marriage Act, 1954 before the Registrar of Marriage in the presence of three witnesses thereafter a court marriage certificate is issued directly by the Registrar of Marriage appointed by the Government of India. In a common way, we can say that the marriage is solemnized between man and woman before the court of law.

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