J. Venkatesan

Order covers all religions across the length and breadth of the country

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Thursday ordered compulsory registration of marriages of couples belonging to all religions across the country. It directed States and Union Territories which have not enacted rules to this effect so far as per its 2006 orders to frame the necessary rules within three months.

A Bench of Justice Arijit Pasayat and Justice P. Sathasivam passed this order on a petition filed by a divorcee, Seema, seeking directions for making registration of marriage compulsory. The Bench reiterated that marriages should be compulsorily registered “in respect of persons who are citizens of India even if they belonged to various religions”.

In February last year the Court had held that compulsory registration of marriages of all religions would be a step in the right direction for prevention of child marriage – a practice still prevalent in many parts of the country. The Court had said that one way to curb the practice was to make it mandatory legally for all to register their marriage, mentioning their age at the time of marriage.

The Court agreed with the National Commission for Women that compulsory registration of marriages would be of critical importance to various women-related issues such as prevention of child marriage and ensuring a minimum age of marriage; prevention of marriages without the consent of parties; checking illegal bigamy/polygamy; enabling married women to claim their right to live in the matrimonial home, maintenance, etc.

In July this year the Court was informed by the amicus curiae assisting it that though some States had framed the rules, it had been done only for Hindu marriages and not in respect of all religions. Accordingly the Court granted three months to the States and Union Territories to frame rules to cover marriages of all religions.

“It appears that the States of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Goa, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Rajasthan, Sikkim and Tripura have complied with the direction,” it said on Thursday.In West Bengal, it added, changes had been made to the West Bengal Special Marriages Rules, 1969, Registration of Muslim Marriages and Divorces Registration Rules and Registration Rules of Hindu Marriage Act for making registration of marriages compulsory and providing for consequences for not doing it.

“So far as other States and UTs are concerned, some of them have not filed any affidavit, and in respect of others the directions have been complied with in respect of Hindus. The directions given by the order dated February 14, 2006, have not been fully complied with. We, therefore, direct that the States and UTs which have not acted in line with the directions given on February 14, 2006, shall forthwith do it and in no case later than three months from today. Place this matter after four months. The affidavits indicating compliance shall be filed before the next date of hearing.”