How Special Marriage Act Is Proving Fatal for Interfaith Marriages
Ironically, the Special Marriage Act made for interfaith couples is becoming the biggest obstacle in marriages.
As the ‘love-jihad’ conspiracy strengthens its root in the form of laws in various states, two interfaith marriages have been labelled as such and protested against in Maharashtra.
In two separate incidents in Nashik and Pune districts, some organisations opposed the marriage between a Muslim man and a Hindu woman. While the couple decided to postpone their wedding in Pune, the Nashik one were already married under the Special Marriages Act, 1954 and simply wanted to perform a Hindu ceremony.
Despite the approval and acceptance from families in both the cases, once the wedding card in the Nashik case and the marriage notice from the Registrar’s office in Pune went viral, the families started receiving threats on the phone to stop the wedding.
Ironically, if we get to the root of both these cases, the provision for the Special Marriage Act made for interfaith marriages is itself becoming the biggest obstacle in marriages.
What Does the Special Marriage Act Say
The Special Marriage Act, 1954, allows registration of marriages which is not permitted by the personal laws of their practicing religions. The Act is mostly preferred by interfaith couple who want to get married, without converting from their respective religions.
This law allows any couple, irrespective of their religious, caste identities, to get married. However, the registration of such marriages comes with a strict process.
It also requires the marriage officer in their respective area to first issue a 30-day public notice – with all their details like name, occupation, age and address. Through the notice, the marriage officer invites public to raise objections to their union, if any.
Demand for 'Right to Love'
The Pune-based, 'Right to Love' organization works to provide legal protection and support to inter-faith married couples.
The organisation’s coordinator K Abhijeet has demanded a CID probe from Maharashtra Home Minister and the Pune Police Commissioner, against those who threaten adult couples and their families in alleged ‘love jihad’ cases.
It’s not the first time that information on the marriage notice has been misused to threaten couples, Abhijeet says. He adds that this raises the question of right to privacy of the couples.
Legal representative for 'Right to Love' advocate Vikas Shinde has made a request to Inspector General of Registration Shravan Hardikar to apprise him about the misuse of the marriage notice.
Shinde also cited the directions of the Allahabad High Court and demanded a ban on sharing information of couples in the public domain.
Shinde says that complete information about interfaith couples entering into marriage is also disseminated on the registration portal. This information can be seen by anyone on their mobile. In such a situation, some organisations leak this data on social media, leading to threats to the couple and their families.
Recommendations on Legal Issues
The Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmulan Samiti (ANiS) runs a marriage division, in which couples are advised on the legal issues related to inter-caste and inter-religious marriages.
Meanwhile, in order to promote inter-caste and inter-religioun marriages, the Department of Social Justice, Government of Maharashtra had constituted Justice Thul Committee in 2017.
Working president of ANiS, Avinash Patil, was a member of this committee and had recommended the committee for legal reform.
Patil asserted that to protect couples, it is necessary to reduce the time of notice for marriage from 30 days. He added that provisions should be made for strict action on the misuse of the information given in the notice. Moreover, the state government should take the responsibility of providing security and shelter to the married couples, he said.
Crucial Allahabad HC Order On Public Notice
The Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court, in an order passed in January 2021, said that it will not be mandatory for couples having an interfaith marriage to publish the marriage notice.
The notice will be optional. Justice Vivek Chaudhary gave this important decision on the Habeas Corpus petition of a young woman. However, the Supreme Court has not issued any order stating that the 30-day period under SMA.
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