Why registration of marriage needs to be compulsory?

Friday, 30 October 2020


Why registration of marriage needs to be compulsory?

Himashri Baishya | October 17, 2020 14:20 hrs

Though cultural diversity does exist in India and marriage rules, ceremonies, roles differ from one society to another, marriage is universally considered as a social institution in all the cultures. 

From a legal point of view, after the solemnization of marriage, registration of marriage is important. In India, marriage can either be registered under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 or under the Special Marriage Act, 1954 and these rules have no exception in the state of Assam. The Hindu Marriage Act applies when both the husband and wife are Hindus, Buddhists, Jains or Sikhs, or where they have converted into any of these religions, whereas the Special Marriage Act applies to all citizens of India irrespective of their religion. Also, Parsis and Zoroastrians can register their marriages under the Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act, 1936. 

The Hindu Marriage Act provides for registration of an already solemnized marriage and does not provide for solemnization of a marriage by a marriage registrar. However, the Special Marriage Act provides for solemnization of a marriage as well as registration by a marriage officer. To be eligible for marriage in India, the minimum age is 21 years for males and 18 years for females. The marriage registration process is applicable only for the above-mentioned age for men and women.

A marriage solemnized under a religious marriage ceremony is considered as a legal marriage in the eye of the layman. However, a legal marriage registration certificate will prove one’s marriage valid under the court of law. A marriage certificate is an official statement establishing the marital status of a couple. It is an important document, which one can rely upon to prove that they are legally married to someone, and for various other purposes like obtaining a passport, opening a bank account, changing one’s maiden name and applying for an income certificate among other things. 

A marriage certificate is essentially the legal proof of registration of a marriage. Compulsory registration of marriage will ensure that conditions of a valid marriage have been fulfilled. Without compulsory registration, women are deceived into marrying without fulfilling the conditions of a legal marriage. So registering a marriage is most important from the women's empowerment point of view. A valid marriage registration certificate will not only help a woman to get maintenance from her husband but also to get her share in her husband’s property and to get other matrimonial benefits.  

Though legal provisions are there to meet the needs of society, some prevailing social issues are also there connected to this topic. One is that a large section of people of Assam hardly know about the legal requirement of marriage registration, particularly the illiterate section of people of Assam living in the rural areas. They are unaware of the fact that registering marriages is a necessary reform and in its absence women can become mere victims of fraud. It deprives women of societal recognition and legal security. Another issue is that, when a male and female from two different castes or religions want to get married, anyone of them is first converted into the caste or religion of the other and only after that the marriage is solemnized with the rituals of the converted one. Through this practice one has to lose his or her religious identity to get married. 

Now, the question is what is the need of such practice, when the Special Marriage Act is providing for solemnization and registration of marriage between two persons irrespective of their religion without following any religious rituals and ceremonies? There may be two alternative answers to this question. Half of those who follow this practice are ignorant of this legal provision and the other half doesn’t know about the availability of such a legal provision. 

So, there is a dire need of social awareness to register every marriage with the necessary participation of government, stakeholders, NGOs with some interesting rules and schemes. Positively mentioning one good step of the Assam government, the “ARUNDHATI” Scheme of the Assam government is a path-breaker here. Under this Scheme, the finance minister of Assam informed the media that they will give each bride 10 grams of gold during her marriage if the marriage is registered under the Special Marriage Act, 1954 by fulfilling some other conditions. It is hoped that, in the upcoming days, the government will come up with more such interesting schemes making registration of marriage compulsory. 

(The views expressed in the article are the author’s own.)


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