Inter-religious marriages could be registered only under the Special Marriage Act, 1954, and not under any other legislation

K. Lalitha (21), professing Hinduism, reportedly “married” S. John Jacob (both names changed), a Christian, of Sivaganga district at a lawyer’s office in Sellur here on November 22, 2013, and got the marriage registered with Tallakulam Sub-Registrar’s office here on the same day under the Tamil Nadu Registration of Marriages Act (TNRMA), 2009.

However, following a discord in their relationship, Ms.Lalitha approached another lawyer early this year to get the marriage registration cancelled. And she was shocked to hear that the registration was illegal and untenable. She was also told that a marriage between individuals belonging to different religions could not be registered under the Act.

Similar was the case of J. Savithri (22) of Theni district, who reportedly married O. Barnes Thompson at Y. Othakadai near here and got the “marriage” registered with Y. Othakadai Sub-Registrar’s office on July 13, 2012, under the 2009 Act. She later wanted to cancel the registration but it could not be done easily due to legal complications.

Sought for his views, S. Srinivasa Raghavan, an advocate practising in the Madras High Court Bench here, said inter-religious marriages could be registered only under the Special Marriage Act, 1954, and not under any other legislation.

“Getting a marriage registered under the Special Marriage Act involves elaborate procedures, including issuance of a notice that would be pasted outside the Sub-Registrar’s office for about 30 days inviting objections, if any, to the registration of the marriage. Only thereafter, the Sub-Registrar would register the marriage and issue the certificates.

“In order to avoid these elaborate procedures and to get their illegal marriages registered on the spot, some individuals were getting them registered under the 2009 enactment, and it is surprising that the Sub-Registrars were also encouraging the practice. The TNRMA could be invoked only if the couple belonged to the same religion and not otherwise,” Mr.Raghavan added.

He also recalled that the TNRMA was enacted pursuant to a 2006 Supreme Court judgement which stressed the necessity to get all marriages in the country registered in order to avoid marital disputes.

A senior official of the Registration Department conceded that some Sub-Registrars were registering inter-religious marriages under the TNRMA since the department was yet to issue a circular clarifying the legal position on the issue.

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