Is Hindu Marriage Invalid without Proper Ceremony?

2 May 2024  Read 2806 Views

India is known for its most expensive elections and weddings. As the wedding industry became the fourth largest in the country, with a whopping ₹4.74 trillion in 2023, an interesting question arises: Is marriage merely a celebration, or does it hold deeper significance in the eyes of the law?

So recently, the Supreme Court said that a Hindu marriage is not valid unless the ceremonies and rituals given under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, are performed.

Let's gain insight into this aspect through the lens of the Supreme Court, understand what makes a Hindu marriage legally valid, and consider the role of rituals in this sacred union. Let's get started!

What has happened? 

1. Follow Rituals: The Supreme Court said that a Hindu marriage must follow the traditional rituals and ceremonies outlined in the Hindu Marriage Act. Without these ceremonies, even if the marriage is registered, it will be considered invalid.

2. Sacred Occasion: The judgement states that a Hindu marriage is a sacred occasion and not a "song and dance" and "wining and dining" event.

Interestingly, this ruling came about during divorce proceedings. The case presented some interesting turns that led the court to issue this judgment, potentially influencing future divorce cases.

Marriage is Invalid if…

The Supreme Court said Section 7 of the Hindu Marriage Act 1955 mentions that "ceremonies of a Hindu marriage" have to be complied with for the validity of the marriage. If not done, then the marriage is not deemed valid in the eye of the law.

As per Section 7, a Hindu marriage may be solemnised in accordance with the customary rituals and ceremonies of either the groom or bride.

You should read about different Marriage Laws in India.

Marriage as per the Hindu Marriage Act

Section 7 of the Hindu Marriage Act states, "A Hindu marriage may be solemnised in accordance with the customary rites and ceremonies of either party thereto." The court noted that the term "solemnised" indicates that the marriage is not considered valid unless these ceremonies are conducted.

According to Section 7(2), if the marriage ceremony includes 'saptapadi' (where the bride and groom take seven steps together), the marriage is considered solemnised after completing the seventh step.

Section 8 of the law deals with the registration of Hindu marriages and the issuance of certificates. It also grants states authority to make rules regarding certificate issuance.

However, a couple wishing to get their marriage registered must show proof of marriage. These proofs, such as photographs and certificates, need to establish that both parties are Hindu and that the marriage was done in accordance with the law. 

If you want to read about the Special Marriage Act, then click on the link.

Supreme Court's Observations on Rituals

The Supreme Court observed if a Hindu marriage doesn't follow the required rituals or ceremonies, like the saptapadi, it won't be considered a Hindu marriage.

In other words, for a marriage to be valid under the Act, the requisite ceremonies must be performed, and proof of the said ceremony's performance must be provided when an issue/controversy arises. 

If the parties haven't performed such ceremonies, there won't be a Hindu marriage as per Section 7 of the Act. Just receiving a certificate from an entity without these ceremonies doesn't confirm marital status or establish a marriage under Hindu law.

"Marriage is not a commercial transaction"

The court stated that Hindu marriage is a 'samskara’ and a sacrament that holds great value in Indian society.

Marriage is not an event for 'song and dance' and ‘wining and dining’ or an occasion to demand and exchange dowry and gifts. It is not a commercial transaction but a serious occasion where a man and a woman become husband and wife, forming the core of a family in Indian culture.

Marriage is Sacred

The court said that a Hindu marriage helps in having children, strengthens the family, and promotes unity among different communities. Marriage is important because it gives a lifelong, respectful, equal, agreed-upon, and healthy relationship between two people. 

It is seen as a special event that brings spiritual benefits, especially when done with the traditional rituals that vary based on location and culture, which are believed to make a person spiritually better.

Registration Only Proof of Marriage

The Court highlighted that if a marriage hasn't occurred as per Section 7, then registration alone won't confer legitimacy to the marriage

The registration process for Hindu marriages is meant to help prove the marriage, but for it to be valid, there must first be an actual Hindu marriage conducted according to Section 7 of the Act. 

Even if the conditions for a valid Hindu marriage under Section 5 are met, without the actual solemnisation of the marriage as per Section 7, it won't be recognised as a legal Hindu marriage.

What was the Case About?

  • The Supreme Court made these observations while considering a petition from a wife seeking the transfer of divorce proceedings against her. 
  • During the case's pendency, the husband and wife mutually decided to file a joint application for a declaration that their marriage was not valid. 
  • They clarified that they did not conduct any marriage ceremonies, customs, or rituals. However, due to certain pressures and circumstances, they felt compelled to obtain a solemnisation certificate from Vadik Jankalyan Samiti. 
  • Using this certificate, they registered their marriage under the Uttar Pradesh Registration Rule, 2017, and received a Certificate of Marriage from the Registrar of Marriages.

Conclusion

To sum up, the recent Supreme Court decision about Hindu marriages highlights how important and special these unions are. It shows that marriage is more than just a legal thing—it's a meaningful tradition with a deep spiritual meaning. This decision will probably change how Hindu marriages are seen and done legally, focusing on their real value and importance in Indian society.

About the Author: Anirudh Nikhare | 59 Post(s)

Anirudh did his Bachelor's in Law and has practical experience in IPR, Contracts, and Corporate. He is your go-to legal content writer turning head-scratching legal topics into easy-to-understand gems of wisdom. Through his blog, he aims to empower readers with knowledge, making legal concepts digestible and applicable to everyday life.

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