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Solemnization of Marriage with Special Reference to Live-in Relationships

The Hindu Marriage Act of 1955 considers the conduct of shastric rites to be necessary for the solemnization of marriage.

In India, there is no specific law governing "live-in relationships," and no enactments defining the rights and responsibilities of couples cohabiting in a live-in relationship. This article examines the practises required for the solemnization of a valid Hindu marriage under Section 7 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, as well as the status of live-in relationships as recognised by statutes and courts in relation to the presumption of marriage as laid down under Section 114 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872.

Section 7 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 - Ceremonies for a Hindu Marriage
  1. A Hindu marriage can be solemnised in line with either party's conventional rites and procedures.
  2. After saptpadi (the taking of seven steps by the bridegroom and the bride together before the sacred fire) is included in such rites and ceremonies, the marriage becomes complete and binding when the seventh step is taken.

Marriage Ceremonies according to Hindu Law
Under the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955, the conduct of shastric rites is deemed necessary for the solemnization of marriage. The ceremonies and rites included in Section 7 of the Act can be divided into two categories [1]:
  1. The Hindu Law's mandated shastric ceremonies and rites, or
  2. In the caste or society to which one or both of the parties (or both) belong, conventional ceremonies and customs predominate.

Kanyadana (bride's gift), panigrahan, vivahahoma, and saptapadi are some of the most important shastric ceremonies practised and performed by Hindus. The saptapadi ceremony, in which the husband accompanies the bride for seven steps in a north-eastern direction while singing sacred hymns, is the most essential and necessary rite for Hindus.

It has been determined that saptapadi must be performed prior to the sacred fire. The chanting of mantras, on the other hand, is not required for the legitimacy of the marriage, and the proper performance of the ceremonies is sufficient for the solemnization of a Hindu marriage.

In Deivani v. Chindavdram[2], the Madras High Court decided that the two fundamental rites for the solemnization of a Hindu marriage are kanyadaan or the girl's gift and the saptapadi, and that if the saptapadi is omitted and all other ceremonies are done, the marriage is not legitimate. The Calcutta High Court has ruled in Tarapada Jana v. Kumar Bhawani Giri[3] that if Saptapadi is properly done, complaints that shlokas were not read will not invalidate the marriage.

Customary Ceremonies Constituting a Valid Marriage
If either side of the party has a customary ceremony that is followed and done properly, it will suffice to establish the marriage's validity under the law as per section 7 of the Act. For customary rituals and ceremonies to be accepted, it must be demonstrated that they have been practised among members of the particular caste, group, or sub-caste since ancient times, and that they have been recognised as mandatory in nature over time (Rabindra Nath v. State) [4]. The recognised customary ceremony might be non-religious or simple in form, and it can only consist of one ceremony.

As a result, the performing of saptapadi is not a condition of every Hindu marriage. Many communities in India have their own unique customary rites that have been validly recognised over time, some of which are included here:
  1. The smearing of vermilion on the bride's forehead by the bridegroom is the only required ceremonial among the Santhals. [5
  2. The only ritual required among the Nayahans of South India is the tying of a vadu veeta thali around the bride's neck. [6]
  3. There is no need for a ceremony among Buddhists; all that is required is mutual consent.[7]
  4. No ceremony is required among the Karewa community of lower caste Hindus, and if the partners live together as husband and wife with the intent to live as such is sufficient to form a properly solemnised marriage.[8]

Consequences of Non-Performance of the necessary Rites and Ceremonies
In order to acquire recognition of a legitimate marriage under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, the relevant ceremonies, whether Shastric or customary, must be performed on the bride's or groom's side. [9] The Supreme Court declared in Banu Rao v. State of Maharashtra [10] that the execution of requisite rites has been deemed indispensable for the prosecution of bigamy, and that prosecution for bigamy cannot succeed without such performance.

In A.N. Mukerji v. State (1969 AIR 489), a physician was charged with bigamy when it was alleged that he performed three marriage ceremonies at three different occasions. The first was the moon ceremony, the second was the exchange of garlands in Kali temple after taking seven steps, which was an imitation of saptapadi, and the third was done in front of the Guru Grantha Sahib, which was a replica of the Sikh ceremony because the woman was Sikh.

The court ruled that performing fake marriage ceremonies did not constitute legal ceremonies, and thus the charge for bigamy was dismissed. The topic of performing necessary ceremonies has been determined in various cases to be critical for the restitution of conjugal rites, and restitution of conjugal rites cannot be granted if no valid ceremony has been done. [11]

Status of Live-in Relationships and the Section 114 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872

In India, there is no specific law governing live-in relationships, and no enactments defining the rights and responsibilities of couples cohabiting in a live-in relationship. Although the law is uncertain on this, courts have acknowledged live-in relationships throughout time. The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act of 2005 was the first to recognise live-in partnerships as lawful, offering protection to women who are not legally married but are in a relationship with a male individual.

According to Section 114 of the Indian Evidence Act, a court may presume the existence of any fact that it believes is likely to have occurred, taking into account the natural flow of events, human conduct, and public and private business in a relationship as to the facts of the case. As a result, where a man and a woman live together for an extended period of time, there is a presumption of marriage. Unless the opposite is proven, a legitimate marriage by continuous cohabitation between the parties will be presumed unless independent evidence of solemnization of marriage is obtained.

The Supreme Court ruled in Madan Mohan Singh v. Rajni Kant [12] that the law presumptively favours marriage over concubinage. According to the principle, a man and a woman who have lived together for a long period are presumed to be married. It has also been noted that a long-term live-in relationship cannot simply be a walk-in/walk-out relationship, and that children born from such unions are legal.

In Anandi v. Onkar [13], it was established that if a community of neighbours treats a pair as husband and wife, they are regarded as married, and the burden of proving that they were not formally married falls on the party stating it.

The Supreme Court, in the landmark case of S.Khushboo v. Kanniammal, broadened the horizons by holding that live-in relationships fall under the ambit of the right to life under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, and that it is a permissible act of two majors living together that cannot be considered illegal or unlawful.

The importance and indispensability of the ceremonies in terms of the proper solemnization of Hindu marriages cannot be disputed. The Hindu Marriage Act of 1955 has done an excellent job of catering to the interests of various Hindu communities by granting legitimate and equal recognition to shastric as well as customary ceremonies relevant to distinct communities. With the changing demands of the times and social behaviours, such as live-in relationships, statutes have attempted to identify such relationships in order to facilitate the execution of laws for the benefit of all.

  1. Dr. Paras Diwan, Modern Hindu Law, p.88, 89.
  2. Deivani v. Chindavdram, 1954 Mad 65
  3. Tarapada Jana v. Kumar Bhawani Giri, 2020 Cal 78
  4. Rabindranath v. State, 1969 Cal 58
  5. Dhuma v. E., 1943 Pat 109
  6. Tirumalai v. Ethirajamah, (1946) 1 MLJ 438
  7. Mi Me v. Shwe (1912) 39 Cal 492.
  8. Charan Singh v. Gurdial Singh, 1961 Punj 301 (FB)
  9. Laxman Singh v. Keshar Bai, 1966 MP 166
  10. Banu Rao v. State of Maharashtra, 1965 SC 1564
  11. Deivanai v. Chindaubaram, 1954 Mad 657
  12. Madan Mohan Singh v. Rajni Kant (2010) SCC 209
  13. Anandi v. Onkar1960 Raj 251

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