Religious ceremony a must for the Hindu Marriage Act to apply: Supreme Court

The Supreme Court observed that mere registration of a Hindu marriage in the absence of a religious ceremony does not result in a marriage valid under the Hindu Marriage Act. The Act recognises the rituals as a samskara, a sacrament to be followed assiduously, strictly and religiously, the court said.

The marriage rituals cannot be trivialised and turned merely into a social event for dancing and wining and dining, held a bench of justices B.V. Nagarathna and Augustine George Masih, stressing that marriage under the Hindu Marriage Act is a sacred, lifelong, dignity-affirming, equal, consensual and healthy union of two individuals.

The court was hearing a petition filed by a wife seeking the transfer of divorce proceedings. While the case was ongoing, the husband and wife had agreed to jointly apply for a declaration that their marriage was invalid as they claimed they had not performed any customs or rituals to solemnise the marriage.  

The petitioners stated that they were pressurised and compelled by certain circumstances to obtain a certificate of solemnisation from the Vadik Jankalyan Samiti (Regd.) and then this certificate was used to register their marriage under the Uttar Pradesh Registration Rule, 2017 and received a marriage certificate from the registrar of marriages. Noting that no marriage had actually been solemnised, the apex court ruled that there was no valid marriage and thus no divorce possible.

The court was critical of couples attempting to gain the privileges of marital status without conducting a valid marriage ceremony. The bench underscored that marriage was not a transaction but a sacred commitment between two individuals. The court advised young couples to reflect on the significance of marriage.

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