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Marriage Registration: Procedure, Documents And Timelines

In India, marriage is considered as a holy, religious activity which confers rights and duties upon both the male and female involved in the marriage. The exact meaning of marriage that whether it is sacrament or a contract has received a lot of arguments and debates. The Section 7 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 expressly talks about the ceremonies associated with that of marriage in India.

The act under Section 7(2) talks about saptapadi that involves seven steps taken by the bride and groom around the sacred holy fire jointly and that completes the marriage. The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 applies to Hindu and includes Buddhist, Jain and Sikh and Muslim, Christian, Parsi and Jews are excluded.

The people that are included under the ambit of Section 7 are proved to be governed by the Hindu Law. Unlike Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, The Special Marriage Act, 1954 governs the marriage of Indians in foreign countries without taking any religious barriers into consideration categorizes marriage and that marriage is treated as civil contract by nature.

The registration of marriage in India is not compulsory. Registration laws are at discretion of the state and at times the same has been proved to be beneficial whereas at times registration has not played any major role in the marriage.

There are several judicial decisions regarding the registration in India and Section 8 of the act expressly deals with the provision of registration for the Hindu marriages. The registration takes place only after the solemnization of marriage as per Section 7 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.

The solemnization of marriage takes place once the parties, that is both the male and females follows all customary rites and ceremonies as per the act. The eligible date for marriage in India is minimum 18 years for females and 21 years for males. The registration process is applicable to those who are of or above the mentioned age for men and women.

Is it mandatory to register marriage in India?

The fact that Indian is a diverse nation and a residence for several religion and group cannot be denied. Each group is being governed by their personal rules and regulation when it comes to personal laws. The framers of Indian Constitution while framing the constitution did not think fit to discuss the topic of marriage due to sensitivity involved into it.

Before coming to the topics like procedure and documents required for registration, it is very important for us to know the actual meaning of registration. Section 8 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 as mentioned aforesaid expressly deals with the element of registration but it must be noted that the provision is not compulsory in nature for the parties in a marriage.

The subsections of section 8 are well elaborated:

  • Section 8(1) state that the state governments do have authorities to make rules and the same will state that the parties involved in the marriage have been so in terms with the conditions that is laid down in the Hindu Marriage Register. Along with the documents that are associated with the marriage should also be made available to the parties for future references. And hence, it acts as a proof of the Hindu Marriages.
  • Section 8(2) mentions about State Governments responsibility to check and ensure that the parties involved in the marriages have abided by the rules mentioned in clause 1 of the act and a fine of twenty- five rupees would be charged from the parties in case any contravention occurs from the parties.
  • Section 8(3) states that the rule under clause 1 of the section is at the discretion of state and it would be implemented once the State Legislature forms such law.
  • Section 8(4) talks about the duty of Hindu Marriage Register to make an inspection about the marriage in order to have sufficient evidence and proof in order to prove it legal.
  • Section 8(5) explains the fact the validity of sections mentioned above will remain unaffected, if the registration of Hindu Marriage is not done in the course.
It simply means that failure to register the marriage won't affect its validity.

For the marriage registration to take place the presence of both the parties is very much required. Registration binds the marriage and as a shield for the parties involved to it. The fact of India being a patriarchal society cannot be denied, where women are subjected to harassment, violence and other social issues.

Degree of prohibited relationship

The circumstances in which two spouses are deemed to be covered under the degree of prohibited relationship are:
  • When one is lineal ascendant to the other.
  • When one has been the husband or wife of lineal descendant of the other.
  • When one them has been the wife of the brother or the father's or mother's brother or grandfather's or grandmother's brother of the other.
  • When they are brother-sister, aunt and nephew, niece and uncle, or child of brother(s) or sister(s).
The marriage under this category is null and void. But, customs should also be kept in mind meaning that if customs allow such marriage the parties might marry. The punishment of marriage falling under prohibited degree is simple imprisonment for one month or fine of Rs. 10,000 or with both. The punishment mentioned is for both the parties.

Solemnization in Hindu Marriage

The registration process under Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 is concerned primarily with the solemnization of marriage by the virtue of Section 7 of the act. As per the provision of the act solemnization is performed by following customary rites and ceremonies including saptapadi that is seven steps by both the parties around the sacred fire. With the performance of this, the marriage becomes absolute and binding.

Requirements of marriage registration in India

There are mainly two legislations that governs the marriages in India and they are:
  • The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955
  • The Special Marriage Act, 1954

The process of registration includes certain requirements and the party should carry on which are provided in the discussion
  1. The sub-divisional magistrate must be provided with application form regarding the registration and it must include initials of both the parties. The parties need to wait for 15 days in case of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 for an appointment whereas it may extend to 30 days in case of the Special Marriage Act, 1954
  2. Both the parties must present birth certificate, passport or matriculation certificate as documentary evidence.
  3. At the time of marriage registration in a court of law, both the parties should have attained the minimum legal age.
  4. Both the parties must provide passport size photo as well.
  5. In case the parties are registering under the Special Marriage Act, 1954, the place of residence for the parties is required for documentary evidence.
  6. The marriage registration process is also followed by the deposition of fees. The deposition fee is Rs. 100 and Rs. 150 for marriage registration under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 and the Special Marriage Act, 1954 respectively.

In the case, Margarit Palai v. Savita Palai it was held by the court that under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 only the marriage between Hindus will be registered. The marriage between Hindu and Christian cannot be registered. In another case of Kagavalli v. Saroja, the Madras High Court was of the opinion that the marriage registration should be made compulsory.

However, in the case of P. Remesh v. Secy, Kanapuram Grama Panchayat it was held by the court that registration must be done within the 15 days of solemnization of marriage.

Landmark judgments
  1. Seema v. Ashwani Kumar:

    In this case the Apex Court was of the opinion that the matter of registration of marriage falls within the ambit of Entry 30, List-3, and Section 7 of the Constitution of India. Hence, it was viewed that the registration of marriage for any religion under the law must be made compulsory once the solemnization has been done. It was though this case the judiciary provided nod to the legislature for making compulsory registration of marriage in India.

    The Apex Court provided direction to the States and Union Territories to file reports regarding the compliance and non- compliance with the provision. The states like Rajasthan, Sikkim, Karnataka, Bihar, Chattisgarh, Goa, Madhya Pradesh, Mizoram, Mizoram, Tamil Nadu, Tripura compiled with the direction, some filed only in context to Hindus and others remained silent on the matter. The court also granted a period of 3 months for filing the compliance
  2. Pranav A.M. v. Secy Engandiyum Gram Panchayat:

    In this instant the court was of the opinion that if the marriage had taken place between two individuals after conversion of into Hinduism, then the registrar has no rights of inspection rather he/she should simply perform the duty of registering marriage.
  3. Valeshma v. Cochin Units:

    In this case the validity of registration was questioned. The court in this case stated that registration will be made null and void, if the ceremonies are not performed. However, the decision was passed keeping in mind the societal framework and later on the decision was overturned in Seema v. Ashwani Kumar's case.
  4. Kagavalli v. Saroja:

    The court in this case held that mere registration of marriage does not validate the invalid marriage.

Is compulsory registration of marriage in India feasible?

India became the signatory to Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) on 30th July, 1980. India ratified to CEDAW in the year 1993 and as per Article 16(2) of the CEDAW, it was recommended to all signatory to adopt compulsory registration.

India made a statement, the concept of compulsory marriage registration is not practically possible is such a diverse country like India, with variety of customs, religions and literacy level and expressed that the clause would be considered but no such steps were taken in future to proceed with compulsory registration.

Legislative Initiative

The Central Government brought, Compulsory Registration of Marriage Bill, 2005 with the view to make people aware about social structure. However, the bill was welcomed by the Law Commissioner of India and other communities but many learned member, communities and groups opposed the same.

The Registration of Births and Death (Amendment) Bill, 2012 was passed for the solemnization of marriage, wherein the aim was to provide relief to the woman those come across maintenance cases. But, the discussions came to end on the fact that unless Central Government make some laws, it is difficult to establish compulsory registration.

Issues pertaining to compulsory registration of marriage in India:

  1. Can such a compulsion help the cause?

    With lot of studies, debates and discussions, it could be observed that non- registration of marriage act as a hurdle in claiming maintenance. It could be seen that under Section 125 Cr.P.C., if the woman had lack of details of husband's income often leads to stalling of cases. So, making registration is not solution to all legal and social issues faced by the women in day to day life.

    The Central Government should come with such laws that broaden the meaning of women as a wife. Also, there is no any specific research that states compulsory registration could be viable solution to all socio-legal problems suffered by women.
  2. Do the states with compulsory marriage registration are able to implement the policy?

    As per subsection 8(3) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, it is at discretion of the state legislature to enact laws for compulsory registration of marriage. Though, the states that have enacted such laws suffer lot of lacuna and that simply hampers the cause. For example, Tamil Nadu Registration of Marriages Act, 2009 requires any proof of valid age and the same could be fulfilled by just mark-sheet or a birth certificate.

    In such cases there might be the possibility of submitting forged document. The state legislations have also included punitive measures for non- registration of the marriage. For example, The Mizoram Compulsory Registration of Marriages Act, 2007 expressly mentions that parties failing to register their marriage willfully shall be punished with imprisonment of six months and fine of Rs. 1000. So, it could be concluded that administrative actions should not be introduced.
  3. Will a law for compulsory marriage registration consistent with present laws?

    The landmark case, Seema v. Ashwani Kumar was instrumental behind the 211th Law Commission report and the report recommended for compulsory registration marriage in India. The question in this context arises that whether such laws will be consistent with the present laws that are dealing with marriage in our country. The most perfect example could be The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006.

    The act simply states that child marriage would be at the option for the married party as whether they want to continue with the marriage after two years of majority of the party. The act does not make the child marriage void ab inito but it's voidable at the option minor.

    Hence, it could be implied that child marriage would continue to be a valid one even it is not registered and compulsory registration would not continue in the long run. So, with the above discussion it is clear that question at hand "Is India ready to have compulsory registration laws in India?" remains to be negative and gender equality is far to achieve.

With the above discussion, it is quite clear that non- registration of marriage is a loss for the parties involved to the marriage. It could be implied that registration of marriage make the marriage legal and recognized in the eye of law. Since long Indian society has been recognized as recognized as a patriarchal society and there are societal issues which are commonly affecting the women and they include issues like:
  • Child Marriage
  • Marital Rape
  • Domestic Violence
  • Harassments and many more issues

In the landmark case, Seema v. Ashwani Kumar a transfer petition was filed in the Apex Court in which the National Commission of Women in the affidavit talks about the importance of compulsory marriage registration laws in India. The commission stated that with the compulsory registration of marriage several issues could be avoided.

They include issues like child marriage, marriage without the consent of the parties, illegal bigamy/ polygamy, desert from men and sale of girls under the grab of marriage could be prevented on one hand while on the other hand it would enable the women to claim their matrimonial rights, inheritance rights and other privileges. So, the marriage is unregistered the parties cannot avail the claim and imprisonment would be awarded along with penalties in case of non- registration of marriage.

There are several arguments and debates pertaining to compulsory registration of marriage in India, wherein one community accepts the compulsory marriage registration and the other community, either deny or remain silent to the cause. In diverse country like India with variety of customs, religions, groups and difference in literacy level implementing law like compulsory marriage registration for the sake of minimizing societal issue is no possible rather it would have more negative consequences as compared to the positive consequences.

This could be expressly drawn the from the non-compliance of the clause 2 of Article 6 of Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), wherein the signatory was to make the law for compulsory marriage registration, in order to protect the women from all forms of socio-legal issues. But India, though being a signatory to the convention no such law was mind keeping in mind the fact of diversity.

The second instance could be landmark case of Seema v. Ashwani Kumar, wherein the Apex Court provided direction to the States and Union Territories to file reports regarding the compliance and non- compliance with the provision, but not any strict action or decision was made.

The compulsory marriage registration is not the solution to inequalities, social and legal issues faced by a woman in India. There could be better methods to advance solutions like the harmonious and expansive interpretation the term wife, adoption of other methods for methods for women empowerment so that not only the wife could avail legal remedies but also the concubines.

The laws in India should always be backed by punitive measures, that leave the law being a mere procedural one rather than enabling it to achieve the substantial goal. India is a nation with less literacy rate where people are unaware of prevailing laws, so implementing laws for compulsory registration would have possibility of failure in legal claims due to non- registration of marriage.

It could be concluded that solemnization and registration are regulated legally on India. However, law needs to be upgraded with the societal changes so that it may get fit in the present situation. The compulsory registration of marriage should not be the solution for societal issues that a woman suffers.

The laws should be made keeping in the constitutional provisions. The laws should be such that talks about equality i.e. Article 14, laws should be such that no discrimination is made Article 15(1) but at same time Article 15(3) talks about power of the state to make special provisions for women and children. The question at hand "Is India ready to have compulsory registration laws in India?" remains to be negative and gender equality is far to achieve.

  1. Acts/ Constitution/ Bill/ Convention
  2. The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955
  3. The Special Marriage Act, 1954
  4. The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006
  5. Tamil Nadu Registration of Marriages Act, 2009
  6. The Mizoram Compulsory Registration of Marriages Act, 2007
  7. The Constitution of India
  8. Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973
  9. Compulsory Registration of Marriage Bill, 2005
  10. The Registration of Births and Death (Amendment) Bill, 2012
  11. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of discrimination Against Women
  • Dr. Paras Diwan, Modern Hindu Law 24th Edition, 2019
  1. Heinonline

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