Top 10 things about the Special Marriage Act,1954


‘Marriage’ is regarded as a sacred institution in our Indian subcontinent.  It is a necessary part of our culture. India is a different country and thus has people from a number of religions and cultures, residing here.

When it arrives at marriages in India, arranged marriages are considered the best way to get a boy and a girl to tie the nuptial knot. Indian parents are the ones who take the utmost concern in it, right from the girl or boy they want their child to get married to, till the date and time of marriage. This is so because there predominates this thinking that they are a lot wiser and endured than their children, and will decide the best for them. Indians consider marriage as a promising culmination of two souls, that they decide every ritual of marriage according to the astrological positioning of the stars of the bride and the groom.

Now it is very crucial that every Indian should know at least some of the basic things about the Special Marriage Act. Let us discuss 10 of those things-

  1. The scope of the Act

The Special Marriage Act administers with inter-caste and inter-religion marriages.

Inter-caste marriage is a marriage between people belonging to 2 different castes. Gone are the days when people used to marry blindly anywhere their parents picked them too. Now the youth has its own motto and choice and they prefer getting married to someone who has better compatibility with them rather than marrying someone who belongs to their caste or their religion. It is them who have to live with their spouse for the entire life and thus caste or religion is not a thing of utmost consideration at all now. Love is a beautiful emotion and it should not be registered with something like caste or religion. All religions are equal and marriage amongst it should not be a big deal. Caste or religion is bestowed on us by birth and not by choice, then why are people of lower castes seen with shame and disdain? India is a diverse nation and things like this that happens here, is a thing of pity. Thus, the Special Marriage Act is special legislation that was enacted to grant for a special form of marriage, by registration where the individuals to the marriage are not required to renounce his/her religion.

  1. Application of the Act

This data is the most significant one for every Indian to know as it is through this that they can avail them. This Act incorporates marriages among Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Jains, and Buddhists. This act pertains to every state of India, except the state of Jammu & Kashmir. This Act continues not only to the Indian citizens belonging to different castes and religions but also to the Indian nationals living abroad.

  1. Requirements

As Indians think in marriages with proper rituals, customs, and ceremonies including pomp and show & extravagant celebrations, the Special Marriage Act does not need any of them. The basic necessity for a valid marriage under this Act is the consent of both the parties to the marriage. If both the individuals are ready to marry each other, that suffices it; here caste, religion, race, etc. cannot and do not act as a hindrance to their union.

For marriage under this Act, the parties need to file a notice showing their intention to marry each other, with the Marriage Registrar of the area in which at least one of the parties to the marriage has resided for at least 30 days preceding the date on which such notice is being filed. The ceremony is then said to be observed after the expiry of 30 days from the date on which such notice has been published. But if any person related to the parties objects this marriage and the Registrar finds it to be a just cause of objection, then he can cancel the marriage on such grounds. For a valid marriage, it is also expected that the parties give their approval to the marriage in front of the Marriage officer and 3 witnesses.

  1. Conditions

The conditions needed to be followed for this special form of marriage is not very diverse from the requisites of other normal marriages, which happen within the caste. These are the conditions to be eligible for marriage under this Act: –

  • The bridegroom needs to be at least 21 and the bride must be at least 18 years of age at the time of marriage. This is the least age limit for a boy/girl to marry, respectively.
  • Both the parties must be monogamous at the time of their marriage; that is they must be unmarried and should not have any active spouse at that time.
  • The parties should be mentally fit in order to be able to judge for themselves, they must be sane at the time of marriage.
  • They should not be related to themselves through blood relationships; that is they should not come under prohibited relationships, which will otherwise act as a ground to dissolve their marriage.
  1. Changes with the Emergence of Special Marriage Act in India

For it is known that inter-caste or inter-religion marriages are still considered a taboo in our country the establishing of Special Marriage Act was a great urgency.

If we view the positive side of these marriages, we can find that they have added to our national integrity. Unlike earlier times, nowadays people are drawn more to the opposite sex, belonging to other castes and sometimes end up considering the communal side of it. People from higher castes tend to fall in love with people from lower castes and get married to them. What is significant is the amount of love and affection between them regardless of the status and community they belong to. What we need to know is that Every Indian should adjust their mindset about the caste system in our country and appreciate marriages between different communities and religion. India is improving with the increasing influence of education and thus they must know about the advantages of Inter-caste marriages too.

These marriages promote balance amongst the citizens and as a result of it people try to interact more with each other and know and respect each other and their differences. It sets an instance for other people that how love and respect can create a free and happy generation, which is above the caste system and the evils of it.

  1. Legitimacy of children

A marriage is said to be void, where the conditions mentioned in point no.4 are not met with, and the offspring from such marriages who would have been legitimate if the marriage had been valid, shall be legitimate, whether such child is born before or after the commencement of the Marriage Laws (Amendment) Act, 1976 (68 of 1976), and whether or not a decree of nullity is conferred in respect of that marriage under this Act and whether or not the marriage is held to be void contrarily than on a petition under this Act as mentioned in Sec.26 of the act.

  1. Application on succession Rights

Another significant point that every Indian should have knowledge about SMA is that the succession to the property of personalities married under this act or any marriage displayed under this act and that of their children will be governed under the Indian Succession Act. But, if the parties to the marriage belong to Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh or Jain religions, then the series to their property will be governed under the Hindu Succession Act.

  1. Restriction on Divorce during 1st yr of marriage

Any person married below the Special Marriage Act must know about this significant provision of the Act. The parties can’t file a petition for divorce to the District court unless and until 1 year has expired from the date of their marriage as registered in the marriage books.  But, in cases where the court is of the view that the petitioner has suffered exceptional hardships or the respondent has shown exceptional depravity on their part, a petition for separation would be maintained, but if any misrepresentation is found on the part of the petitioner to appeal for divorce before the expiry of 1 yr, the court may if any order has been passed, state the order to take effect only after the expiry of 1 yr, as mentioned in Sec. 29 of the Act.

  1. Can they remarry?

Talking, about the choice of remarriage open to marriages of persons registered under SMA, one major thing that has to be paid attention is that, where the marriage has been suspended and there is no right of appeal available, or there is no petition made for it in the required period, or appeal if presented is dismissed, then the parties may remarry, as rendered by the Act.

10. The general and legal Understanding

The global understanding is that only marriages in one’s own caste are sacred and promising while the legal aspects of it as discussed above, doesn’t make marriages under this act any less sacred or valid. Our Law under its requirements gives the right to every citizen to marry any person of their choice and have a happy life. But this view is supported as well as scrutinized by many. Some hold it to be valid, some not. The influence of arranged marriages over the love marriage has made about this situation, which even after judgments and laws being passed more often in this respect, hasn’t brought about a major transformation in the mindsets of people who are in support and opinion of marriages within the religion and caste.

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