The Indian Constitution allows a special type of marriage for the people of India where they can marry irrespective of their religion or caste which is defined under the Constitution of India as the Special Marriage Act of 1954. The SMA was enacted by the Parliament into the Indian legal system in 1954. This law controls those marriages which are not intended to be solemnized due to religious traditions. SMA is known as the Special Marriage Act because it provides a unique marriage for those who are not interested in following traditional religious customs. In this type of marriage, there is no requirement of converting or rejecting one’s religion, unlike arranged marriages where two families should belong to the same community or caste. The Act provides, “a special form of marriage in certain cases, for the registration of such and certain other marriages and for divorce.” SMA is applicable to all Indian citizens of all faiths such as Hindus, Sikhs, and Muslims along with the Jains, Christians, and Buddhists even the Non-Resident Indians (NRIs). Through this Act, legal recognition of the marriage is ensured as one can register their marriage which further provides various legal benefits to the couple including succession rights, social security benefits, and inheritance rights. Moreover, the Special Marriage Act is different from personal laws such as the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 and the Muslim Marriage Act, 1954 as it enables marriage between inter-caste couples without converting the religion of the other before marriage.
In Section 4 of the Special Marriage Act of 1954, certain essentials or conditions are required to be fulfilled in order to be eligible for marriage under SMA. In the absence of these prerequisites, the marriages would not be considered to have not been performed under this Act.
Marriages performed by following all the mentioned prerequisites will only be lawful.
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The couples who wish to marry and register their marriage under the provisions of the SMA should follow the procedure mentioned in Section 16 of the Act. The marriage is solemnized by the Marriage Officer appointed by the Government rather than following any religious ceremonies. The procedure to follow is mentioned below:
As per Section 24 of the Act, if any of the conditions for a valid marriage defined under this Act are not fulfilled then the marriage is declared null and void by a decree of nullity. The marriage is also declared null and void if, at the time of marriage or institution of the suit, the respondent was impotent. On the other hand, Section 25 of the Act stated that any marriage solemnized under the SMA is voidable if
(i) the marriage consent of either party was determined to be fraud or obtained by coercion provided that the Court should not grant a decree if (a) proceedings were instituted within one year after the fraud had been discovered, and (b) the petitioner lived with another party with his or her consent after the coercion had ceased or the fraud was discovered.
(ii) the respondent wilfully refuses to consummate the marriage, and
(iii) the respondent was pregnant at the time of marriage by a person other than the petitioner, provided that the court should not grant a decree, (a) at the time of marriage, the petitioner was ignorant of the alleged fact, (b) There has not been any marital intercourse with the consent of the petitioner since the petitioner discovered the grounds for decree, and (c) proceedings were instituted within a year from the date of the marriage.
A divorce petition can be presented either by the husband or the wife to the District Court on certain grounds which are mentioned as follows:
Special Marriage Act in the way of giving people an identity as a couple also preserves their own individuality and religious fates. The concept is to make nuptial Knots non-ritual-centric and serve the interest of all Indian people. It provides provisions, prerequisites, and other regulations for lawful inter-faith marriages.
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