Marriage is often seen as a relationship of utmost sanctity in India. Probably that is the reason why most people in India carry the belief that the State and its various kinds of procedural formalities have got nothing to do with their personal lives. Therefore, marriage registrations are not taken as seriously as property registrations. This makes it all the more important for people in India to know more about the procedure for marriage registration.
Though it is true that registration of marriages is not mandatory under the laws governing marriage in India, however, both the legislature and the courts alike have together, very often vouched strong arguments in favor of making marriage registration compulsory.
The Supreme Court, in the case of Seema v. Ashwani Kumar,[i] suggested that a central legislation be passed in order to make registration of marriages a compulsion. Various High Courts of different States have also suggested the implementation of a Central law-making marriage registration compulsory. Even the Law Commission of India, in its 270th Report released in July 2017, emphasized upon the need for a Central legislation for compulsory registration of marriages. As of now, there exists only individual and separate State legislations providing for compulsory registration of marriages, which includes several Indian states like Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra etc. among others. The report also contains a comparative analysis of the personal laws that exist in other countries like France and Turkey and mentions the provisions in the respective civil codes of those countries that provide for compulsory registration of marriages.[ii]
As of now, the provision for registration of marriages, has been included in only two personal legislations, that is, the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 and the Special marriage Act, 1954. This implies that marriages that take solely between couple belonging to other religions like Islam, Christianity, Jewism etc., do not have a legal base to rely upon for registration of marriages. It is only for people belonging to the Hindu, Sikhs, Jain and Buddhist religions or when a marriage takes places between a couple belonging to two different such religions, that they have the option of registering their matrimonial ties.
Even under the two legislations mentioned, registration of the marriage is not mandatory, however, it is strongly recommended that the parties indeed choose to register their marriage. This is because a marriage certificate is a prima facie proof of solemnization of the marriage and hence is important for rectifying any procedural irregularities that might not have complied with during the customary rites and ceremonies. This prevents a spouse from denying the factum of marriage in future.
This becomes of special significance when the first wife wishes to accuse the husband of bigamy. The burden of proof of showing that she was married to the husband lies on her and therefore, it becomes easier if she has a marriage certificate as that will be considered as prima facie proof of her marriage ad it will become difficult for the husband to deny it.
Registration of a marriage is done in the office of the Sub Divisional Magistrate, if the marriage was conducted at a place under his jurisdiction or in the office of an SDM under whose jurisdictions one of the parties to the marriage has been living for the past six months or more.
Prior to registration, the Registrar of Marriage will first verify whether the marriage is within the legal bounds or not. This may involve, verification of ages of both the parties (to prevent child-marriages), the previous marital status of each of the parties to the marriage (to prevent bi-gamy in Hindus), whether the couple does or does not fall in the degrees of prohibited relationships.
“Under the Special Marriage Act, they have to provide a 30-day notice to the sub-registrar and a copy of this notice is added to their notice boards. If there are no objections to their marriage it is pushed forward.
There is a lot of documentation needed for the registration of a marriage. Some of the forms are mentioned below and must be submitted by both the parties:
- Depending on the religion of the people getting married, the right application forms have to be filled out and submitted
- Proof of address.
- Proof of identification (you cannot use the same document submitted as proof of address).
- Proof of your birth.
- An affidavit stating the date and place of the marriage.
- The wedding invitation.
- A signed certificate of the priest conducting the celebration.
- Two witnesses, who were present at the time of the marriage.”[iii]
Post registration, if the wife intends to change her name or surname, she will have to announce it in the newspapers and submit a copy of the same. Thereafter, her name in all essential legal documents including the Aadhar card, PAN card etc. can be changed.
If a couple finds the above mentioned procedure tedious, it can also opt for online registration of the marriage. All the forms and the documents need to be filled in on the online portal, post which the couple receives an appointment date. On the said date, the couple will have to go to the sub-registrar’s office along with three witnesses of the marriage and get their marriage certificate.
Marriage is a subject matter of both State and Central Laws, since it has been mentioned under the Concurrent List in the seventh schedule to the Constitution of India, 1950. Therefore, it wouldn’t be unconstitutional if the Parliament was to indeed enact a law in this regard and it is high time it did so.