Special Correspondent

Bid to prevent local bodies from following practices not backed by law

Rules do insist on personal appearance

Signing of register not mandatory

Thiruvananthapuram: Ombudsman for Local Self-Government Institutions M.R. Hariharan Nair has issued directives which will make the registration of common marriages simpler and prevent local bodies from following practices which are not backed by law.

A petition filed by Ummer Pilakkal of Beypore, Kozhikode, sought a directive to the respondent, secretary of the Nallalam grama panchayat, who is also the local registrar of marriages, to register the marriage of his daughter.

It was alleged that notwithstanding the personal presentation of the application for registration of marriage jointly by the spouses, followed by one more appearance by the petitioner and his daughter bride and yet another appearance by the bride, the respondent failed to register the marriage.

The respondent pointed out that the non-registration of the marriage was consequent on his discovery that the husband had another wife and the wife was a divorcee.

More enquiries were required to find out the truth of their competence to marry. He also pointed out that as per a government letter communicated by the Registrar-General, both the spouses had to affix their signatures in the register maintained by the local registrar and that it had not been done in this case.

Questions to ponder

The ombudsman noted that the points which arose for consideration were should the marriage registrars under the Kerala Registration of Marriages (Common) Rules 2008 insist on the appearance in person of the couple as condition precedent for registration, what were the documents which could be insisted on by marriage registrars to satisfy themselves of the justification for registration and what was the relief to be granted to the petitioner in the case in question.

According to Rule 9, the parties to a marriage should prepare a memorandum in duplicate in form number I appended to the rules and should submit the same to the local registrar along with two separate sets of photographs within a period of 45 days from the date of solemnisation of the marriage.

This memorandum should be signed by both the parties to the marriage and two other persons who witnessed the marriage. Rule 11 spelled out what the local registrar should do when such a request was presented to him.

The Ombudsman pointed out that the rules nowhere insisted on personal appearance before the registrar or of their signing in any register.

The decision of the Supreme Court under which the rules were framed also did not make their signing in any register mandatory.

Court ruling

He also cited in this connection a ruling of the Kerala High Court which held that where the credibility of the materials produced by the petitioner was not doubted by the local registrar, the request for the registration of the marriage as stated in the memorandum for registration of marriage in terms of the common rules ought to be acted upon without insisting on the presence of either or both of the parties provided the memorandum was otherwise in order.

What the local registrar had to do in case he decided against registering the marriage was set forth in Rule 11(2). For reasons to be recorded in writing, he had to reject the memorandum for registration “if it is not in proper form or not accompanied by the requisite fee”.

He also had to intimate the reason to the parties concerned within a period of 30 days from the date of such rejection. Under rule 16, the applicants could then file an appeal to the Registrar-General.

The ombudsman said that rule II indicated that the local registrar had no authority to sit on the memorandum indefinitely. He had no authority to embark on a time consuming investigation into the status of the parties either.

The ombudsman directed the respondent to register the marriage within a period of one week from the date of receipt of a copy of his judgment and issue the marriage certificate on payment of the fee of Rs.5. He also directed that a copy of the order be forwarded to the Principal Secretary , LSGI.