Special Marriage Act

Special Marriage Act

Marriages in India could either be registered under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955/Muslim Marriage Act, 1954 or under the Special Marriage Act, 1954. A marriage under the Special Marriage Act, 1954 permits individuals from two different religious backgrounds to get married. The applicability of the Special Marriage Act extends to every citizen of India regardless of their religion. 

The Special Marriage Act has been enacted to furnish a special form of marriage by any individual in India and all Indian nationals in foreign nations regardless of the religion either party towards the marriage might profess. 

For the benefit of Indian citizens overseas, it furnishes for the appointment of Diplomatic and Consular Officers as marriage officers for solemnizing as well as registering marriages among citizens of India in a foreign nation.

Conditions essential for a Marriage

The following conditions that are necessary:

•    That neither individual has a spouse living at the time of marriage.

•    That neither individual is incapable of giving a valid consent towards the marriage because of unsoundness of mind.

•    That neither individual has been suffering from mental disorder of such a kind or towards such an extent as to be unfit for marriage and the procreation of children.

•    That neither individual was subjected to recurrent attacks of epilepsy or insanity.

•    That the groom has attained the age of 21 years and the bride the age of 18 years at the time of marriage.

•    That the individuals are not within the degrees of prohibited relationship. 

Degrees of Prohibited Relationship comprise:

•    Mother.

•    Father's widow (stepmother).

•    Mother's mother.

•    Mother's father's widow (step-grandmother).

•    Mother's mother's mother.

•    Mother's mother's father's widow.

•    Mother's father's mother.

•    Mother's father's father's widow (step great grandmother).

•    Father's father's widow (step-grandmother).

•    Father's mother's mother.

Special Marriage Act, 1954 - SOLEMNIZATION OF MARRIAGE

The individuals who intend to get married under the Special Marriage Act would give a notice in writing in the specified form towards the Marriage Officer of the district in which at least one of the individual to the marriage has resided for a period of not less than 30 days immediately preceding the date on which such notice is given. 

A copy of the notice must be affixed on the notice board of the registration office and a copy of the notice is required to be sent to the marriage officer of the district where either of the individuals having present or permanent addresses for similar publication. After the end of one month from the date of publication of the notice, if no objections have been received the marriage might be solemnized. If there was any objection to the marriage, the officer would conduct an inquiry and the marriage is solemnized after the inquiry concludes.

Notice of Intended Marriage

A notice is required to be given in writing in the form to the Marriage Officer of the area in which at least one of the individual to the marriage has lived for a period of not less than 30 days immediately preceding the date on which such notice was given.

Period of Objection

Any objections towards the marriage, relating to age, the capacity to consent, etc., might be addressed to the Marriage Officer within 30 days of the publication of the notice. In case of any objections, the Marriage Officer is required to conduct an inquiry into its validity within a window of 30 days, during which the marriage could not be solemnized.  If the Marriage Officer finds out that the objection is valid and decides against the marriage of the concerned individuals, the bride or groom might appeal to the district court within 30 days of such refusal. When all the concerned objections are dealt with, the bride, groom, and any 3 witnesses are required to sign a declaration in the presence of the Marriage Officer, who shall then countersign it.  If there are no objections to the marriage, the marriage would be solemnized upon the cessation of the objection period.

Unreasonable Objections

If the Marriage Officer is of the view that the objection received by him is not reasonable and is not made in good faith, the individual who made the objection can be on the receiving end of objective costs of up to Rs. 1,000. The amount received for this purpose shall be awarded to the individuals of the proposed marriage.

Solemnization of Marriage

The marriage is formalized either at the office of the respective Marriage Officer or in any other places designated for this purpose. As a ritual of legitimacy, every individual is obligated to assent to the marriage in the presence of the Marriage Officer and the 3 witnesses.

Certificate of Marriage

After the marriage is solemnized the Marriage Officer would enter a certificate in the Marriage Certificate Book and this will be signed by the individuals to the marriage and the 3 witnesses and this will be conclusive evidence of the marriage.

Registration of Marriage Celebrated in other Forms

Any marriage celebrated excluding a marriage solemnized under the Special Marriage Act, 1872 or under the Special Marriage Act, 1954 might be registered under Chapter III of the Act through a Marriage Officer if some conditions are fulfilled:

•    a ceremony of marriage was performed between the individuals and they have been living together as husband and wife ever since.

•    neither individual has at the time of registration more than one spouse living.

•    neither individual is an idiot or a lunatic at the time of registration.

•    the individuals have completed the age of 21 years at the time of registration.

•    the individuals are not within the degrees of prohibited relationship.

•    the individuals have been living within the district of the Marriage Officer for a period of not less than 30 days immediately preceding the date on which the application is made towards him for registration of the marriage.

Procedure for registration

Upon receiving of an application signed by both the individuals to the marriage for the registration, the Marriage Officer would give public notice thereof in such manner as might be prescribed and after allowing a period of 30 days for objection and after hearing any objection received within that period, if satisfied that every of the conditions are fulfilled, enter a certificate of the marriage in the Marriage Certificate Book in the set form and such certificate would be signed by the individuals to the marriage and by 3 witnesses.

Consequences of marriage under the special marriage act- effect of marriage on the member of the undivided family

If any member of an undivided family who professes the Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh or Jain religion get married to a non-Hindu under this Act, then he would be severed from such family. Though if two individuals who are Hindus and get married under this Act, no such severance takes place.

Succession to the property of individuals married under this act

Apart from anything specified in the Indian Succession Act, 1925 regarding its application to members of certain communities, succession towards the property of any individual whose marriage is solemnized under this Act as well as towards the property of the issue of such marriage would be regulated by the provisions of the Indian Succession Act. Though if two peoples who are Hindus get married under this Act the above provision doesn’t apply and they are governed by the Hindu Succession Act.

Restitution of Conjugal Rights

If the individuals to the marriage under this provision are unreasonably withdrawn from the society of the other, the aggrieved individual might file an application to the District Court for restitution of conjugal rights. The Court might decree the restitution of conjugal rights depending on the validity of the petition and the relevant legal grounds.

Judicial Separation

A judicial separation is a de facto separation of married persons which has no bearing on the legality of the marriage. If the married persons wish to involve themselves in such a marital affair, a plea for this purpose should be lodged to the District Court by either the husband or wife.  The court shall determine its ruling based on the validity of the petition.

When a marriage gets void

A marriage under this Act would be deemed void if:

•    Any of the responsibilities of the Act were not met by either of the individuals.

•    The defendant was impotent at the time of marriage.

•    The marriage is consummated because of the willful refusal of the defendant to consummate it.

•    The consent of either of the individuals was obtained through coercion or fraud.

•    The defendant was pregnant by any person other than the petitioner.

•    In this context, a petitioner here referred can be either of the individuals who wish to abate his or her marriage with the other individual, who is known as the defendant.

•    The right of the petitioner in order to file divorcé is affected if.

•    The petitioner has been ignorant of the facts alleged.

•    The proceedings have been instituted within a year from the date of marriage.

•    The petitioner has spent the marital life with the other with or without free consent.

Legitimacy of Children

The laws relating to marriage describe legitimate children like those who were born on account of the marriage of the couple. This distinction is not taken away as a consequence of a void marriage as the children continue towards being legitimate, though the custodial rules may change.

Grounds of Divorce

If any of the individuals are seeking a divorce from a marriage, a petition for the same should be made to the District Court either by the husband or the wife on few grounds, which could be that:

•    The defendant had extramarital sexual affairs with any person after the solemnization of marriage.

•    The defendant has deserted the petitioner for a period of at least 2 years.

•    The defendant is facing imprisonment for 7 years or more.

•    The defendant has treated the partner in a cruel manner.

•    The defendant is of an unsound mind or was suffering from any mental disorder that renders him unfit to live with the other individual.

Divorce by mutual consent

The individuals to marriage might also present a petition for divorce to the District Court specifying that they have lived separately for a period of 1 year or more and found that they are not in a position to spend their life in unanimity, because of which they have mutually consented to the dissolvent of the marriage.


If the District Court thinks that the wife of a divorced, judicially separated or void marriage doesn’t receive any income that fulfills her requirements, it might direct the husband to remit the expenditures of her proceedings by giving due consideration to the income of the husband.

Penalty for the Marriage Officer

If the marriage officer willfully solemnizes a marriage under these provisions without maintaining compliance with the clauses of this Act can be incarcerated for a period of one year and/or imposed with a penalty of Rs. 500.

In case a marriage violates any of the above conditions would stand null and void under the Special Marriage Act, 1954

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eStartIndia Team

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