No Special Marriage Officer appointed in state even after Supreme Court’s 2006 directive

Wednesday, 19 June 2019

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No Special Marriage Officer appointed in state even after Supreme Court’s 2006 directive

Srijit Banerjee | May 25, 2019 16:00 hrs

GUWAHATI: Back in 2006 the Supreme Court of India issued a directive to all the states and union territories in the country to frame a rule and appoint special marriage officers in their respective states to which most of the states have acted upon. However, in Assam, no special marriage officers have been appointed till now by the government.
 
There is only one Marriage Officer in the entire district of Kamrup (M), who is the Senior Sub Registrar appointed as such. The process of registration is totally chaotic and creates a situation of arbitrariness with lack of transparent functioning.

Only 20 applications are accepted in one day by the Marriage Officer and a large number of applicants have to return without getting their marriages registered.
 
One applicant speaking to G Plus, who did not wished to be named, said that he has been coming to and going back from the DC court for five days straight because of the long queue outside the marriage officer’s office. “I have been to the DC court for five continuous days and have failed to register my son’s marriage because of the long queue. I travel all the way from Maligaon and it takes time to reach here owing to the traffic. Today, however I was lucky enough to be among the first ten in the queue and am hoping that I will get my son’s marriage registered today without a hitch,” said the applicant.

When asked about the special marriage officers’ appointment directive by the Supreme Court, he replied, “It’s sad that it has been almost 14 years since the order was given and no action has been taken. Be it the former government or the present government, no one has taken note and plight of the common people. If orders would have been followed properly, none of these hassles would have been there. The long line with the time consuming process would have ended. I hope the government takes note of this issue and solves it for the betterment of the people and as well as the current officer, who is the lone officer with a lot of work.”

Another such applicant also said the same thing, “I came here today for the first time and it has been almost three hours that I am standing in the queue. I hope that I will be able to get my work done today itself or else it would be very difficult for me make out time to come here again. The government should have acted long ago. Look at the situation: we are moving at a snail’s pace. I came all the way from Noonmati and it will become very difficult for me to come here again if I don’t get it registered today. If the Supreme Court has given the directive the state government should have followed it to make everyone’s work easier and hassle-free.”

“The situation inside the DC court is becoming worse day by day. Huge lines and such chaotic atmosphere have turned the court more into a market. For us it is becoming impossible on daily basis. The government should solve it immediately by appointing more officers or making the process online to ease up the process and make the working condition better for even the employees,” spoke an official under anonymity who works at the DC court.


Petition filed in High Court 

A public interest litigation (PIL) has been filed at the Gauhati High Court by a few advocates of the High Court in April this year regarding the non-appointment of special marriage officer in the state of Assam. Debabrata Banerjee, an advocate of the High Court is one of the petitioners of the PIL.

Speaking to G Plus, Banerjee said that the state government has failed to appoint any special marriage officer even after the apex court’s verdict. “On 14th February 2006 the Hon’ble Supreme Court had issued a directive to the states and the central government to take the following steps in the Transfer Petition (C) No. 291 of 2005 in accordance with the framing of Rules under the Special Marriage Act, 1954 for appointment of special marriage officers in the respective government at states and union territories. The officer appointed under the said rules of the states shall be duly authorised to register the marriages.”  
      
He also said that the rules have been applied by other states like Bihar, West Bengal and Jharkhand which have appointed the officers. 

But, the state government in Assam has failed to do so till date. “After the directions issued by the Hon’ble Supreme Court, several states have framed rules pertaining to registration and more importantly the entire process of registration has been decentralised by appointment of marriage officers in the urban local bodies (municipalities), and gram panchayats in the rural areas. Assam has, till date, failed to frame the Rules under the Special Marriage Act for proper implementation of the procedure for registration of marriages under the Special Marriage Act,” said Banerjee.

“The government has merely appointed marriage officers in the various districts of the state who are functioning from the offices of the respective deputy commissioners. It is the sub-registrars who are generally being appointed as marriage officers to carry out the task of registration of marriages,” he added.

He further said that the failure to frame proper rules under the Act have forced the common public to be at the mercy of the officers of the district administration handling the marriage registration process.

“I have been a victim myself,” said Banerjee while referring to the marriage registration of his daughter early this year. “I have filed a PIL along with one other lawyer at the Hon’ble High Court regarding the appointment of the special marriage officers. The court, on 26th April last, had ordered the state to submit an affidavit within six weeks from the date of the petition regarding the appointment,” he added.

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