The Karnataka High Court has said that any adult has the fundamental right to marry the person of their choice. Irrespective of caste or religion, nobody can restrict the freedom relating to the personal relationships of two individuals.
Which law regulates inter-religious marriages?
A man and a woman belonging to different religions can marry under the Special Marriage Act, 1954. The Act provides for a special form of marriage, the registration of special marriages, divorce, etc.
Who can get married under the Special Marriage Act?
Irrespective of religion, any two people can marry under the Special Marriage Act as long as certain conditions are fulfilled. If someone wants to get married under this Act, then at the time of the marriage:
(a) they should not be married to another person who is currently alive;
(b) they should be capable of giving consent to the marriage with a sensible mind;
(c) they should not be suffering from any mental disorder that makes them unfit for marriage and the procreation of children;
(d) they should be at least twenty-one years of age (if a man), or eighteen years of age (if a woman) and;
(e) their relationship with the other person should not be prohibited by law.
Giving notice of the marriage
If two people want to get married under the Special Marriage Act, they need to give a written notice of the marriage. The notice should be sent to the Marriage Officer of the district where the couple (or one of them) has been residing. The person giving the notice should have been living in the district for at least 30 days before notifying the Officer. The form of the notice is given in the Second Schedule of the Act.
How is a special marriage conducted?
Before the special marriage is performed, the couple, as well as three witnesses, should sign a declaration in front of the Marriage Officer. The Officer will also sign the declaration.
The marriage can be performed at the office of the Marriage Officer. The couple can also choose to get married at any other place within a reasonable distance from the office (this will involve paying additional fees). The marriage can be conducted in any form as per the couple’s wishes.
However, any special marriage is only complete if both the people 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 understood by the couple.
The marriage certificate
After the marriage has been conducted, the Marriage Officer will enter a certificate in the Marriage Certificate Book. The marriage certificate must be signed by the couple and the three witnesses. After a certificate is entered in the Book by the Officer, this certificate is conclusive evidence of the marriage. The certificate is legal proof of the marriage. It confirms that the marriage is valid and has been completed with all formalities.