Hindu marriage invalid ‘unless performed with ceremonies in proper form’: SC

In a recent ruling, the Supreme Court of India has reiterated the sanctity of Hindu marriage, emphasizing that it must be solemnized with proper ceremonies as per the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. The bench, comprising Justices B V Nagarathna and Augustine George Masih, underscored the significance of the institution of marriage in Indian society and urged prospective couples to reflect deeply before embarking on this sacred journey.

The case under consideration involved a couple who had obtained a marriage certificate from an entity but had not performed the requisite ceremonies according to Hindu customs. The court nullified the certificate, emphasizing that registration alone does not confer legitimacy to the marriage if the essential ceremonies are not observed.

The bench said that “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. In other words, for a valid marriage under the Act, the requisite ceremonies have to be performed and there must be proof of performance of the said ceremony when an issue/controversy arises”.

“Unless the parties have undergone such ceremony, there would be no Hindu marriage according to Section 7 of the Act and 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,” the court said declaring as null and void the certificate issued by Vadik Jankalyan Samiti and the ‘marriage certificate’ issued under the Uttar Pradesh Registration Rules, 2017, as proof of “Hindu marriage”.

The court also explained that “a Hindu marriage is a sacrament and has a sacred character. In the context of saptapadi in a Hindu marriage, according to Rig Veda, after completing the seventh step (saptapadi) the bridegroom says to his bride, “With seven steps we have become friends (sakha). May I attain to friendship with thee; may I not be separated from thy friendship”. A wife is considered to be half of oneself (ardhangini) but to be accepted with an identity of her own and to be a co-equal partner in the marriage. There is nothing like a “better-half” in a marriage but the spouses are equal halves in a marriage. In Hindu Law, as already noted, marriage is a sacrament or a samskara. It is the foundation for a new family”.

“We deprecate the practice of young men and women seeking to acquire the status of being a husband and a wife to each other and therefore purportedly being married, in the absence of a valid marriage ceremony under the provisions of the Act such as in the instant case where the marriage between the parties was to take place later”.

“If there has been no marriage in accordance with Section 7, the registration would not confer legitimacy to the marriage. We find that the registration of Hindu marriages under the said provision is only to facilitate the proof of a Hindu marriage but for that, there has to be a Hindu marriage in accordance with Section 7 of the Act inasmuch as there must be a marriage ceremony which has taken place between the parties in accordance with the said provision. Although the parties may have complied with the requisite conditions for a valid Hindu marriage as per Section 5 of the Act in the absence of there being a “Hindu marriage” in accordance with Section 7 of the Act, i.e., solemnization of such a marriage, there would be no Hindu marriage in the eye of law.”

In conclusion, the Supreme Court’s ruling reaffirms the sacredness of Hindu marriage and underscores the importance of adhering to proper ceremonies as prescribed by law. It serves as a reminder for couples to approach marriage with reverence and solemnity, recognizing it as a lifelong commitment that requires sincere dedication and adherence to traditional rituals. By upholding the sanctity of marriage, society can foster stronger familial bonds and promote greater harmony within communities.


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