The Centre has objected to a petition seeking to discontinue with the provision of inviting objection from public while applying for marriage registration under the Special Marriage Act (SMA).
In an affidavit filed before the Delhi High Court, the Ministry of Law and Justice said that the intention behind the provision in SMA was to “keep adequate safeguards to the interest of various parties involved”.
All marriages done under the SMA requires publication of the names of the couple for inviting objections from public for 30 days. Within this period, anyone can object to the marriage on the ground that it would contravene one or more of the conditions specified in section 4 of the SMA. Some of the conditions include neither party has a spouse living; either of them is of unsound mind, incapable of giving a valid consent; and the man has completed twenty-one years and the woman eighteen years.
The provision was challenged by an inter-faith couple on the ground that the 30 days gestation period was not warranted as the same objective can be mitigated on the basis of certificates issued by government hospitals and on the basis of undertaking by them.
However, the Law Ministry said: “If any person raises objection to the said marriage within a period of 30 days, the marriage officer shall not solemnise the marriage until he has enquired into the matter of objection. It may not be possible to verify the credibility of such person if at least thirty days period is not given.” The Ministry added, “the procedure laid down in this Act for registration of marriage is fair and reasonable”.
Advocate Utkarsh Singh, who had appeared for the couple, argued that the question with regard to whether either party has a living spouse can arise in other religious marriage also, but they are exempted from 30 days’ notice period.
The petition has sought to quash section 6 and 7 of SMA, which mandates publication of the public notice, on the ground that it is unreasonable and arbitrary.
“The 30-day period offers an opportunity to kin of the couple to discourage an inter-caste or inter-religion marriage,” the petition filed by the couple, who were then housed at an NGO here at the time of filing of the petition in October last year, said.