The Kerala High Court has said that under the existing special marriage law (which regulates inter-religious marriages), it is not possible to relax the mandatory notice period of 30 days, especially when the law punishes such violations. The law would have to be amended to change the notice period.
What is the notice requirement for an inter-religious 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.
Is the Marriage Officer allowed to publish a marriage notice?
The Special Marriage Act says that 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.
However, the Allahabad High Court has said that under the special marriage law, it is not compulsory for the Marriage Officer to publish a notice of a marriage and call for objections to the marriage.
The Court said that the couple getting married can make a written request to the Marriage Officer to publish or not publish a notice of their marriage. In case they do not make such a request, the Officer should conduct the marriage without publishing the marriage notice or inviting objections to the intended marriage.
Does this mean that the Marriage Officer has no power?
No, irrespective of whether the marriage notice is published, at the time of conducting the marriage, the Marriage Officer can verify the identification, age and valid consent of the couple, and check if they are eligible to get married. The Officer can also ask for appropriate details/proof as per the facts of the case.
If the Marriage Officer violates the special marriage law, they can be punished with imprisonment for up to one year and/or a fine of up to Rupees five hundred.
What is the consequence of publishing a marriage notice?
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.
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.
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.
What can the couple do if the Marriage Officer upholds the objection?
If the Marriage Officer upholds the objection and refuses to perform the marriage, the couple can appeal to the concerned district court i.e., the court having judicial authority in the district where the Marriage Officer has their office. They 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.