Dear Editor,
The Supreme Court ruling that mere registration of marriage in the absence of a proper ceremony would not be valid under the Hindu Marriage Act sounds good. The Supreme Court has found that the Act recognizes ‘Samskara’ subsumed in the Hindu Marriage customs and traditions. There are a large number of people who have bid adieu to the customs and traditions. This is not only from among the people belonging to Hindu community but also by people hailing from other religions. The amazing part of the customs and traditions is that for consummation of marriages, religious rituals are employed and the presence of priests is sine qua non of the Hindu marriage. But for dissolution of the marriage the intervention of courts is necessary. The intervention of courts is necessary to get the maintenance from the spouse in the event of breakdown of marriage. The dissolution of marriage through courts is licence for the next marriage, not necessarily it should be for the second one only. Every marriage in the case of an individual should be dissolved through court only before passing on to next marriage. The court rightly says that Hindu marriage is not just an occasion for “song and dance” and “wining and dining”. There was a time when dining in the Hindu religious functions was with the attendees to sit on the floor only. Chair-table culture came into practice after the officials with their attires found it uncomfortable to sit on the floor and the health issue started cropping up. Even today, there are people who are unaccustomed to sit on chair and dine. The ability to sit on floor has been vanishing with even youngsters unable to squat. Old-aged people sitting on floor raises the eye-brows with astonishment. The court has made it abundantly clear that in the absence of any marriage in accordance with Section 7 of the Hindu Marriage Act, a certificate issued by any entity is of no legal consequence. If a marriage not in accordance with Section 7 of the Hindu Marriage Act is not a marriage, and the man and woman do not acquire the status of husband and wife, how come the live-in relationship is recognized to accord status of husband and wife? As per the Supreme Court of India, a man and woman living together for an extended period are said to be married and thus they are permitted to enjoy legal rights. Section 16 of the Act allows the children to enjoy the rights over the self-acquired property of their parents. A live-in relationship is not buttressed by the observance of rituals of any caste or religion by those living together. But it has legal support as far as payment of maintenance is concerned in the event of the ‘assumed wife’ separating from man. It is a matter of pride that the Supreme Court holds in high esteem the ‘samskara’ in Hindu Marriage Act. The court has rightly deprecated the practice of some people going for registration of marriage with intention to solemnise marriage at a later date. Registration of marriage before the marriage in accordance with the religious traditions and customs is like putting the cart before horse. There are several cases where the marriage has been registered without observing religious practices. The Madurai branch of the Madras High Court has observed “mere registration of a marriage between a couple, without undergoing any marriage ceremony as per their respective personal law, would not confer any marital status upon the couple”. The views expressed by the Supreme Court as outlined in the opening sentence of this article are quite analogous to the judgment delivered by the Madurai branch of the Madras High Court. The judgements given by the Supreme Court and Madurai branch of the Madras High Court are quite meaningful and appropriate. But how fair it would be to recognize the man and woman living together in the live-in relationship as husband and wife even if they live together for a fairly longer period without practicing religious ceremonies? Not recognizing the registered marriage without observing religious ceremonies before registration conflicts with the recognition of the live-in relationship which is not backed by religious ceremonies? No less a court than the Supreme Court should take a look at this issue.
K.V. Seetharamaiah

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