How can the guide help you?
The Nyaaya Guide on Inter-religious Marriages outlines the process involved if you wish to enter into an inter-religious or inter-faith civil marriage. Under the Special Marriage Act, 1954, two people belonging to different religions can get married without converting to another religion. This guide summarises the legal and procedural aspects of entering into an inter-religious (special) marriage, including giving notice of the marriage, performing the marriage, and obtaining the marriage certificate.
What are the laws being discussed in the guide?
The Nyaaya Guide on Inter-religious Marriages explains the Special Marriage Act, 1954. This Guide only covers the general law based on the Special Marriage Act, and you might have to refer to state-specific Special Marriage rules and procedures for more detailed information suited to your situation.
Things to Remember Before Applying
Who can get married under the Special Marriage law?
Irrespective of religion, any two people can marry under the Special Marriage Act as long as certain conditions are fulfilled. However, the Act only provides for a marriage between a man and a woman, and has not yet expanded its scope to cover same-sex couples and transgender people.
Recently, the Delhi High Court took up a petition which seeks that the Special Marriage Act (SMA) should apply to all couples regardless of gender identity and sexual orientation. The Court asked the Central government to respond to the petition, filed by members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community and activists Abhijit Iyer Mitra, Gopi Shankar M., Giti Thadani and G. Oorvasi. Follow the Nyaaya Daily for updates on this.
Who is eligible to marry under the Special Marriage law?
If you want to get married under this law, then at the time of the marriage you should be:
- Single or Divorced. You should not be married to another person who is currently alive.
- Capable of giving consent to the marriage with a sound mind.
- Fit for marriage. This means you should not be suffering from any mental disorder that prevents you from having children.
- Of marriageable age. At least twenty-one years of age (if you are a man), or eighteen years of age (if you are a woman).
- In a relationship which is not prohibited by law. For instance, you cannot marry your own brother, sister, aunt etc. You can see the list of prohibited relationships here.
In some cases, despite your relationship being prohibited by law, your custom might still permit a marriage with another person. In this case, you can get married because your custom allows you to do so.
Giving Notice of the Marriage
If you want to get married under the Special Marriage Act, you need to give a written notice of the marriage. The notice should be sent to the Marriage Officer of the district where you or the person you want to marry have been living. You should have been living in the district you are giving notice in for at least thirty days before notifying the Officer.
You have to submit documents for registering the marriage. While the required documents vary according to the State/Union Territory, here is a general list of documents you might require:
|General List of Documents for Marriage Registration
The marriage must be performed within three months from the date of giving notice to the Marriage Officer, or the notice becomes invalid. After that, no Marriage Officer will conduct the marriage until you give a new notice.
Publication of the Notice
The Marriage Officer will keep the notice with their office records and enter a true copy in the Marriage Notice Book, which can be inspected by any person at all reasonable times, free of cost. The Officer will also publish the notice by attaching a copy of the notice in a clearly visible place in their office.
At the time of applying for marriage, if you are not permanently residing within the district, the Marriage Officer will transfer a copy of the notice to the Marriage Officer of the district where you are permanently residing, and that Marriage Officer will attach a copy of the notice in a clearly visible place in their office.
Objecting to the Marriage
After a Marriage Officer publishes the marriage notice, any person can object to the intended marriage if it violates any of the conditions for a valid marriage under the Special Marriage Act. The objection must be made within thirty days of the notice publication.
|Objection and Inquiry
If a person makes an objection, the Marriage Officer will record the nature of the objection in the Marriage Notice Book, and read it over and explain it to the person making the objection. The person objecting or someone on their behalf must sign the record.
If an objection is made, the Marriage Officer will not perform the marriage until they have inquired into the objection and are convinced that the marriage can be conducted and registered. The Officer should inquire and make their decision within thirty days of the objection.
While inquiring into the objection, the Marriage Officer has judicial powers like a civil court for summoning and examining witnesses, asking for documents, etc. The Officer can summon any person within the district to give required evidence.
If the Officer believes that the objection is unreasonable and not in good faith, they may impose compensation costs of up to Rupees one thousand on the objecting person, and give the compensation to the couple getting married.
If the Marriage Officer upholds the objection and refuses to perform the marriage, you can appeal to the concerned district court i.e., the court having judicial authority in the district where the Marriage Officer has their office. You should make the appeal within thirty days of the Officer’s refusal. The district court will take the final decision on the appeal, and the Officer will obey the decision of the court.
If the marriage is not performed within three months of the court’s decision, the marriage notice becomes invalid, and no Marriage Officer will conduct the marriage and you will have to give a new notice.
|Examples of objections that have been upheld
Performing the Marriage
Before the marriage is performed, you, the person you are marrying, as well as three witnesses, should sign a declaration in front of the Marriage Officer. The Officer will also sign the declaration.
You can perform the marriage at the office of the Marriage Officer. You can also choose to get married at any other place within a reasonable distance from the office. However, for this, you have to pay additional fees.
You can conduct the marriage in any form or religious practice that you wish to follow. For instance, it can be a Hindu religious ceremony or a wedding in a church. However, any special marriage is only complete if you and the person you are marrying say the following statement in front of the Officer and three witnesses:
“I, (A), take (B), to be my lawful wife (or husband)”.
This statement can be made in any language you understand.
The Marriage Certificate
After the marriage has been conducted, the Marriage Officer will enter a certificate in the Marriage Certificate Book.
You, the person you are marrying as well as three witnesses must sign the marriage certificate. After the Officer enters the certificate in the Book, this certificate becomes conclusive evidence of the marriage.
|The marriage certificate is legal proof of a marriage under the Special Marriage Act, 1954. It confirms that the marriage is valid and has been completed with all formalities under the law.|