What does it mean to annul my marriage under Hindu law?

As you know, there are certain conditions for a valid Hindu marriage. When these legal requirements are not met, your marriage suffers from certain legal defects/problems. It has no legal validity and you can annul the marriage in a Court. There are two categories of legal defects in a marriage – ‘void’ and ‘voidable.’ It’s simple – a void marriage is automatically considered an invalid marriage from the very beginning and there is no need to annul it. On the other hand, a voidable marriage is legal until a Court says it is not. Once you have fulfilled conditions then your marriage can go back to being valid.

For example, marriages are void when the conditions of not having a spouse before getting married, you and spouse not falling within the category of “prohibited relationship” or “sapindas” are not followed. On the other hand, a marriage is voidable when your spouse is impotent.

Can I annul my marriage under Muslim law?

Under Muslim personal laws, if a marriage is conducted by violating certain rules and customs, then they are known as Batil marriages. These kind of marriages can be annulled by going to Court. If you do annul such a marriage, then it would be as if the marriage never took place.

Decree of Nullity

A decree of nullity is a judicial decree determining in effect that the marriage in question never existed. It is different from a divorce which acknowledges that there was a marriage and it is ending. The decree of nullity declares that the marriage is and has always been null and void as there are many conditions under which marriage in India can be considered as an invalid marriage. A party has to present a petition before Court against the other party, setting in detail the reason for the annulment.

Conditions for Annulment

These are the conditions for annulment of a marriage:

  • If either party was married to another person at the time of marriage
  • If either party was suffering from a serious mental illness
  • If either party was below the minimum age (18 for women and 21 for men)
  • If your spouse was a close relative (within the prohibited degrees of relationship)
  • If either party is impotent at the time of marriage and when the case is presented to the Court
  • If either party refuses to consummate the marriage
  • If, at the time of marriage, the woman was pregnant by some person other than the spouse. In these cases, the Court has to make sure that the allegations are true
  • If the consent of either party was obtained by fraud or coercion

If these conditions are met, a marriage can be annulled.

Batil and Fasid Marriages

Under Muslim personal laws, marriages in violation of rules are known as Batil marriages. Those marriages which are in violation of conditions of affinity, fosterage, etc. are examples of Batil marriages (for example, marrying your mother’s sister). Batil is another way of saying that your marriage is void. A marriage can be annulled if it is void and it means that the marriage is not legally binding.

In certain circumstances, your marriage may be considered as Fasid or irregular. The prohibitions are temporary or a result of accidental circumstances – it is generally possible to rectify irregular marriages (for example, a marriage with no witnesses).

Filing an Annulment

To end a marriage through annulment, a petition must be presented to the District Court which has jurisdiction. The Court should have judicial authority over the area:

  • Where the marriage was solemnized
  • Where either of the spouses resides at the time of filing for annulment
  • Where the spouses last resided together
  • If the wife is the petitioner, then the place where she resides

The petition should have all the facts and reliefs required and should only be submitted after it has been made certain that everything written in it is true. The Court has a duty to make sure that the proceedings go smoothly, and attempt to make sure that there is a chance of reconciliation between the parties. This means that the spouses have to try to resume their marital relationship. An appeal can also be filed after the Court passes a decree or order, and this will be enforced and has to be obeyed.