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KNOW YOUR LEGAL RIGHTS (KYLR – 2): WHAT GIVES A COUPLE THE STATUSOF HUSBAND AND WIFE? HINDU CEREMONIES VIS-À-VIS MEREREGISTRATION OF MARRIAGE




It is a common practice nowadays for “practical purposes”, taking for instance, obtaining visa to go to a foreign country and to avoid delay after marriage, most of the couples register the marriage even before it is actually solemnized as per Hindu rites and ceremonies. But certain questions arise as to, “what is the status of such couples if they register the marriage without solemnizing it first as per ceremonies? Does it give them the status of husband and wife? If they get separated later owing to some conflict, do they have to file for divorce?” Etc.


In one of the reportable judgments of the Supreme Court in Transfer Petition (C) NO (S). 2043 / 2023 dated 19.04.2024, the Apex Court has deprecated such practices of registering the marriage without solemnizing it first as per ceremonies. The marriage between two Hindus is governed by the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. Section 7 of the Act speaks about ceremonies of a Hindu marriage. A Hindu marriage needs to be solemnized as per Hindu Vedic Rites and Ceremonies. The word “solemnized” means to perform the marriage with ceremonies in proper form. Until and unless, the marriage is performed with appropriate ceremonies and in due form, it cannot be said to be “solemnized”. Therefore, requisite ceremonies for the solemnization of the Hindu marriage must be in accordance with the applicable customs or usage and where saptapadi has been adopted, the marriage becomes complete and binding when the seventh step is taken.


Where a Hindu marriage is not performed in accordance with the applicable rites or ceremonies such as saptapadi when included, the marriage will not be construed as a Hindu Marriage. A mere issuance of a certificate by an entity in the absence of the requisite ceremonies having been performed would neither confirm any marital status to the parties nor establish a marriage under Hindu Law.


Registration of marriages with the Registrar of Marriage is dealt under Section 8 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. It is only when the marriage is solemnized in accordance with Section 7, there can be a marriage registered under Section 8. The advantage of registration is that it facilitates proof of factum of marriage. But if there has been no marriage in accordance with Section 7, the registration would not confer legitimacy to the marriage. Registration of a Hindu Marriage is only to facilitate proof of a Hindu Marriage, but for that there has to be a marriage i.e., a marriage ceremony must have taken place between the parties. Otherwise, there would be no Hindu marriage in the eyes of law.


Hindu Marriage is a sacrament and has a sacred character. There is nothing like a “better half” in a marriage but the spouses are equal halves in a marriage. Marriage is the foundation of a new family. Polyandry and Polygamy and all other such types of relationships are categorically discarded by the Act. In the absence of any solemnization of marriage as per ceremonies, a man and a woman cannot acquire the status of husband and wife to each other. A marriage is not an event for “song and dance” and “wining and dining” or an occasion to demand and exchange dowry and gifts by undue pressure leading to possible initiation of criminal proceedings thereafter.


In light of the same, the Apex Court in the aforesaid case went on to declare the marriage certificate issued by the Registrar of Marriage without performing the marriage as per Hindu rites and ceremonies to be null and void. It also quashed the resultant divorce, maintenance and dowry proceedings pending between the parties. 

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