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Supreme Court Rules: Registration Alone is Not Enough for a Valid Hindu Marriage, Ceremonies are Essential

Introduction

In the matter of Dolly Rani v. Manish Kumar Chanchal [i], the Hon’ble Supreme Court (‘SC’) declared the marriage between Dolly Rani (‘Petitioner’) and Manish Kumar Chanchal (‘Respondent’), as not a ‘Hindu marriage’ under the provisions of s. 7 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 (‘HMA’). Hereinafter, the Petitioner and Respondent together are referred to as the Parties. The SC held that a marriage registration certificate would hold validity only if such marriage had taken place and been solemnized, with the required ceremonies having been performed in reality.

Brief Facts

  • The Parties got engaged and were scheduled to get married at a later date. However, claiming to have ‘solemnized’ their marriage, they obtained a ‘marriage certificate’ from the Vadik Jankalyan Samiti (Regd.) (‘Organization’), and got their so-called marriage registered under the Uttar Pradesh Marriage Registration Rules, 2017 (‘Registration rules’).

  • A subsequent date was fixed by the families of the Parties for the performance of the marriage ceremony as per the Hindu rites and rituals. However, during this time, certain differences arose between the Parties, and the Respondent filed for divorce in, Muzaffarpur, Bihar.

  • The Petitioner, residing in Ranchi, sought a transfer of the aforementioned divorce petition from Muzaffarpur, Bihar, to Ranchi, Jharkhand. During the pendency of the transfer petition, the Parties jointly agreed to file an application under a. 142 of the Constitution to declare the so-called marriage between the Parties as invalid, and the registration certificate as null and void.

Held

  • The SC declared the so-called marriage between the Parties was not a ‘Hindu Marriage’ as envisaged under s. 7 of the HMA, as the requisite ceremonies required for the ‘solemnization’ of a Hindu marriage, had not been performed. Consequently, the marriage certificate issued by the Organization, and the marriage registration certificate were declared null and void.

  • Further, the SC also observed that the Parties had never acquired the status of husband and wife. Therefore, all pending cases between them, including the divorce petition, the maintenance case, and the criminal case, were quashed.

  • The SC further expressed strong displeasure towards the practice of registering marriages for practical purposes, without fulfilling the essential ceremonial requirements, cautioning against the potential legal implications and societal consequences of such actions.

Our Analysis

The observations made by the SC in the aforementioned matter reaffirm that a Hindu marriage is a samskara and a sacrament, which is completed after the performance of saptapadi, inter alia, and other essential ceremonies. It is only after the performance of such rituals that two persons are given the character and status of husband and wife. Unless such essential ceremonies, as envisaged under s. 7 of the HMA, are performed, they cannot be treated as husband and wife. The solemnization of marriage only happens when the ceremonies are performed and completed as per the established customary practices and rituals. Mere registration of marriage, in the absence of having performed any of the customary rituals, does not, and cannot, confer upon a man and a woman the title of husband and wife.

Registering a marriage before it has been solemnized in actuality has serious and lasting social and legal impediments. Once registered, irrespective of its solemnization, a marriage can only be dissolved by a decree of divorce, which in itself is not only financially draining but also a social taboo. Further, the failure of a ‘registered marriage’ to culminate into an ‘actual marriage’ burdens the judiciary with frivolous litigation. The parties, who have, for ‘practical purposes,’ gotten their un-solemnized marriage registered, invariably end up filing multiple cases to wriggle out of such complex situations. Thus, in the current scenario, it has become essential to address the aforementioned issue and re-establish the sacramental and pious nature that a Hindu marriage beholds, while also emphasizing and reaffirming the moral, social, and legal obligations that arise from it.

 In conclusion, the SC's decision serves as a reminder that the solemnization of marriage is a sacred duty, not to be undertaken lightly or for mere convenience, and that it is essential for preserving the authenticity and sanctity of marital unions.





End Note

[i] 2024 SCC OnLine SC 754 dated 19.04.2024.





Authored by Priyavansh Kaushik, Advocate at Metalegal Advocates. The views expressed are personal and do not constitute legal opinion.

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