The practice of intercaste and interreligious marriage is frowned upon in India. It is even taboo in some regions. As a result of the rigid social hierarchies still observed in the country, people are encouraged to marry within their own communities, castes, or religions. This maintains the social hierarchy. The law also recognizes the traditions and rituals of each religion and caste, which are followed by the registration of the marriage.
The Special Marriage Act of 1954 was created in order to protect the interests of people who defy social convention and marry someone outside their caste or religion. People in India and Indian nationals living abroad can use this special marriage form regardless of their caste and religion.
Who Is Covered by the Act?
Under the Special Marriage Act, couples do not have to renounce their religion in order to get married, allowing inter-caste and inter-religion marriages. They can also register while maintaining their religious identity.
Among the groups covered by the act are Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Jains, and Buddhists. The law applies to all Indian citizens, as well as those living abroad, except in Jammu & Kashmir. It is a uniform way to get married regardless of religion, so there are no separate court marriage for different faiths.
According to the Special Marriage Act, there are several procedures to follow
- A Special Marriage Act marriage does not require extravagance, pomp, or show. For a marriage to be valid under this Act, both parties must consent. This will work if both parties are ready to get married.
- The Special Marriage Act outlines some steps for registering and marrying.
- The marriage officer in the district where either party has resided for the past 30 days must receive a written application.
- If the intended parties object to the marriage, the marriage officer gives them 30 days’ notice.
- An intended marriage notice book should be maintained by the marriage officer if there are no objections. It is possible to solemnize the marriage after 30 days from the date of publication of the notice at the marriage office if there are no objections.
- Each party and three witnesses must sign the marriage notice book, which is kept by the marriage officer.
In the event of an objection to the marriage
- With the signature of the person raising the objection, the objection is recorded in the marriage book.
- An objection can be investigated by the marriage officer
- Moreover, the parties must consent to the marriage in front of the marriage officer along with three witnesses for it to be valid
- At the time of marriage, the bridegroom must be at least 21 years old and the bride must be at least 18 years old. According to Indian law, this is the minimum age for a boy/girl to marry.
- A monogamous marriage requires that both parties at the time of marriage are unmarried and do not have a living spouse.
- In order to decide whether to get married, both parties must be mentally fit or sane
- Relationships between them should not be prohibited or related in any way. If that’s the case, the marriage should be dissolved. Marriage under prohibited relations may, however, be solemnized if the custom of any of the parties allows it.
Degrees prohibiting marriage
Relationships with cousins, both paternal and maternal, are prohibited in Schedules I and II of the Act. There are different perspectives under different religions.
According to Hindu law
As second cousins belong to sapindas, marriage with them is prohibited under the Hindu Marriage Act. Such a relationship, however, is not prohibited by the special marriage act.
In accordance with Muslim law
Also, under personal Muslim law, cousin marriages are permitted, both paternal and maternal.
According to Christian law
If the Church allows it, Christian personal law allows marriage between cousins.