No public solemnization or declaration is required in Self-Respect Marriages performed in the Advocate’s offices: Supreme Court

Share on:

Today, the Supreme Court of India overruled the Madras High Court judgment which stated that the marriages performed in the Advocate’s offices are not valid as per the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. A two-judge bench of the SC including Justice Aravind Kumar and Justice S Ravindra Bhat upheld the fundamental right of an individual to choose a life partner and stated that the marriages held at the offices of Advocates are valid. The matter heard was based on the self-marriage system as per Section 7A of the Hindu Marriage Act, inserted by a Tamil Nadu Amendment. 

While hearing the matter, the bench observed that “The view expressed by the Madras High Court in Balakrishnan Pandiyan is erroneous. It is premised on the assumption that each marriage requires a public solemnization or declaration. Such a view is rather simplistic because often due to parental pressure, couples intending to enter into matrimony may not enter into it for the reason of such opposition, hold or give such public declaration, as doing so would imperil their lives and could very likely result to the threat of bodily integrity, or forcible or coerced separation.”

Also, the bench addressed certain risks faced by couples who marry against their family's wishes and said “It’s not hard to visualize other pressures brought to two individuals who are otherwise adults and possess free will. This view (in Pandiyan) is not only narrowing an otherwise wide import of statute but is also violative of the right under Article 21 of the Constitution.” The Court further highlighted the High Court’s concern regarding the role of Advocates and stated that “Advocates have many capacities. They are officers of the court. While acting as counsel/advocate, they should not undertake or volunteer to solemnize marriages. However, in their private capacity as friends as relatives, their roles as witnesses cannot be ruled out.”

During the court proceedings, a decision of the Madras HC in the S. Balakrishnan Pandiyan vs. Inspector of Police stated that the marriages performed by the Advocates were not valid as well as mentioned that self-respect marriage cannot be solemnized in secrecy. Further in May 2023, while passing the judgment in Ilavarsan vs. The Superintendent of Police and Others, the Madras HC refused to rely upon the self-marriage certificate issued by an Advocate. Also, it directed the Bar Council to take disciplinary action against Advocates issuing ‘fake marriage certificates’. Because of this decision, the petitioner approached the Supreme Court where the bench overruled the HC’s judgment.

Also Read: Legal Articles