In News: The Supreme Court dismissed a writ petition challenging provisions of the Special Marriage Act (SMA), 1954 requiring couples to give a notice declaring their intent to marry 30 days before their marriage.
What does the petition seek?
- The Supreme Court dismissed a writ petition challenging the Constitutional validity of certain provisions of the SMA under which couples seek refuge for inter-faith and inter-caste marriages.
- The writ petition has called these provisions violative of the right to privacy guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.
- The writ petition also said that the provisions contravene Article 14 on prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste and sex as well as Article 15 on right to equality as these requirements are absent in personal laws.
- Section 5 of the SMA requires a person marrying under this law to give a notice of intended marriage.
- Section 6(2) says it should be affixed at a conspicuous place at the office of the marriage officer.
- Section 7(1) allows any person to object to the marriage within 30 days of the publication of the notice, failing which a marriage can be solemnised under Section 7(2).
Due to these provisions breaching personal liberties, several inter-faith couples approached the Court, challenging Sections 6 and 7 of the Act.
How do these provisions make couples vulnerable?
- These public notices have been used by anti-social elements to harass couples getting married.
- For instance, in Athira’s case, who got married in 2019 under SMA, her marriage notice containing her address was circulated on Social media calling on people to visit her parents and make them “aware” about her marriage.
- There have been instances, where marriage officers have gone over and beyond the law and sent such notices to the parents.
- The Haryana government has laid down 16 pre-requisites which ask couples to issue a notice in a newspaper and that such notices be sent to their parents.
- In certain States, couples have to seek a no-objection certificate from their parents.
- With as many as 11 States passing anti-conversion (or so called love-jihad) laws, parents and the State are now armed to punish and harass such couples.
The Special Marriage Act (SMA), 1954
- It is the legislation made to validate and register interreligious and inter-caste marriages in India.
- It allows two individuals to solemnise their marriage through a civil contract.
- No religious formalities are needed to be carried out under the Act.
- This Act includes Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Jains, and Buddhists marriages.
- This Act applies not only to Indian citizens who belong to different castes and religions but also to Indian nationals who live abroad.
Source: The Hindu