Who can you complain to regarding a grievance under the law?

In case a person has given the notice to have their marriage performed by or in the presence of a Marriage Registrar, and the Registrar has refused to issue a certificate of marriage, one can approach the Court. Those residing in the towns of Mumbai, Kolkata, and Chennai can directly approach their respective High Courts, while those not residing there can approach the District Court.1 

Complaints regarding minor marriages

The Marriage Registrar must wait for 14 days from the date of receiving the notice in order to issue a certificate of receipt of notice, when one party is a minor (below the age of 21 for Christian Marriages). However, in case one cannot wait for 14 days in order to get the certificate, they can file a petition in their respective High Court, to get the certificate of receipt of notice within 14 days of the notice. However, this option is available only to the residents of Kolkata, Mumbai, and Chennai.2

  1. Section 46. Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872.[]
  2. Section 43, Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872.[]

Who can get married under Christian Law?

Any two persons, where one or both participants are Christians, can get married under Christian law.1

In the eyes of law, any person who truly believes in the Christian faith will be a Christian.2

Whether or not they have been baptised into the faith need not determine their status as a Christian. Rather, the law looks at the genuineness of the person’s faith in the religion, to determine whether they are a Christian or not.3

Minimum Age for Marriage

While the law does not prescribe a minimum age for getting married, the law provides for a special procedure for the marriage of minors. For the purposes of Christian Marriage, a minor is anyone below the age of 21, and someone who is not a widow/widower.4

However, the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act makes every marriage involving a child (below 18 years), illegal but voidable at the option of the child.5

In situations where the minor is between 18 to 21 years old, they would require the consent of either their father, guardian, or mother to get married under the law. 6 To know more about the special procedures of marriage of a minor, read our explainer on Marriages of Minors under Christian Law.

Prohibited Marriages under Christian Law

Certain personal laws may absolutely prohibit a person from marrying a certain person, such as marriage between siblings.7 The Christian Marriage law does not allow for such prohibited marriages and such marriages are considered to be invalid under this law.8 However, a person still has the option to marry under the Special Marriage Act, and the impediment of personal laws won’t be applicable for such a marriage. To learn more on special or inter-religious marriages, read our explainer on Inter-Religious Marriage.

  1. Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872, Section 4.[]
  2. Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872, Section 3.[]
  3. Maha Ram v. Emperor AIR 1918 All 168, K.J.B. David v. Nilamoin Devi, AIR 1953 Ori 10.[]
  4. Section 3, Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872.[]
  5. Section 3(1), Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006.[]
  6. Sections 19 & 44, Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872.[]
  7. Canon 1092, Code of Canon Law.[]
  8. Section 88, Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872.[]

Who can perform a Christian Marriage?

The following persons can perform a Christian Marriage under the law:

  1. Any person who has received the ordination from their church to be a priest/minister.1
  2. Any clergyman of the Church of Scotland.2
  3. Any Minister of Religion licensed under the Indian Christian Marriage law to perform marriages.3
  4. A Marriage Registrar appointed under the Indian Christian Marriage Act. The marriage has to take place by the Registrar or in their presence.4
  5. By any person licensed under the Indian Christian Marriage Act to grant certificates of marriage.5

Any marriage performed by a priest, minister or any clergyman of the Church of Scotland will be performed according to the rules, rites, ceremonies, and customs of that particular denomination of church. However, the procedure for marriages will be according to the Indian Christian Marriage Act if conducted by a Minister of Religion, Marriage Registrar or by any person licensed to give certificates under this law. The procedures also differ based on the person performing the marriage. Read more on the procedures here.

  1. Section 5(1), Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872.[]
  2. Section 5(2), Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872.[]
  3. Section 5(3), Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872.[]
  4. Section 5(4), Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872.[]
  5. Section 5(5), Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872.[]

What are Irregular Christian Marriages?

Irregular marriages are those marriages where certain conditions are not followed. Usually, such marriages are considered to be invalid from the start; however, the law states that in case there are irregularities, the marriage will not be invalidated, rather it will be rectified.1 Given below are some of the reasons for which a marriage may be irregular. Some of these errors may happen:

  • In any statement regarding the place of residence of the persons married
  • In any manner of consent given by a person whose consent to such marriage is required by law.
  • In the notice of the marriage.
  • In the certificate.
  • In the time and place at which the marriage took place. 
  • In the registration of the marriage.1

 

  1. Section 77, Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872.[][]

What are the different procedures to get married under Christian Law?

The marriage procedure differs according to the person performing the marriage. The law does not give details of the procedure in cases where the marriage is conducted as per the rules of a particular denomination of the Church. However, when the marriage is performed by an official appointed by the Act, like a Marriage Registrar or a certified Minister of Religion, it will be performed according to the Christian Marriage law, with the relevant procedure. 

Types of Procedures:

To read more on the procedures, see our explainers on:

What is the procedure for a marriage by a person licensed to grant marriage certificates?

As per the law, a person licensed to grant Marriage certificates can only certify marriage between two Indian Christians,1 neither of them coming from the Roman Catholic faith.2 Under these provisions, any two Indian Christians can marry, without preliminary notices, if they fulfil the following conditions:

  • The bridegroom is over 21 years and the bride is over 18 years of age.3 
  • Neither of them has a wife or husband still living.4 
  • If they take the oath prescribed by the law, in front of the person licensed to grant certificates, and two other credible witnesses.5 

Upon receiving an application in person from any one of the parties, the licensed person will see whether the above criteria have been met, and shall issue a certificate for the marriage. The fee for obtaining such a certificate is four annas, that is, 25 paise. This certificate will act as conclusive proof for the validity of the marriage performed.6

  1. Section 60, Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872.[]
  2. Section 65, Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872.[]
  3. Section 60 (1), Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872.[]
  4. Section 60 (2), Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872.[]
  5. Section 60 (3), Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872.[]
  6. Section 61, Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872.[]

What is the procedure for a marriage by a Marriage Registrar?

A marriage performed by a Marriage Registrar is divided into 4 stages:

Stage 1: Issuing of Preliminary Notice

If a couple wishes to be married by a Marriage Registrar, one of them must give a notice in person to the Registrar of the district in which the couple lives. In case they live in different districts, the notice shall be given to the Registrars of both the districts. The notice shall state their intention to be married, in the prescribed format, and should mention the following:

  • The name and surname, and the profession, of each of the persons intending marriage, 
  • The current address of each of them, 
  • The time during which each has been present in the said address. In case a person has been staying there for more than a month, they only need to state the same.
  • The place where the marriage will take place.1

Given below is a sample notice:

Notice Marriage Registrar

The notice will be pasted by the Registrar at a conspicuous place in the office,2 and will be entered in the Marriage Notice Book kept in the office. 3

Stage 2: Issuing of certificate of receipt of notice

After at least four days of receiving the notice by the Registrar,4 one of the parties intending marriage must make an oath to the Registrar, stating that there are no legal problems in performing the marriage, and that they live within the District of the Registrar’s office.5 In case one of the parties is a minor, one of the parties must also take an oath stating that the necessary steps have been taken.5 To know more about the special procedures of marriage of a minor, read our explainer on Marriages of Minors under Christian Law.

After such a declaration has been made, the Registrar will issue a certificate to the parties, in the prescribed format, and the parties can be married by any Registrar or in the Registrar’s presence, within two months of receiving the certificate.6 Given below is a sample of a certificate of receipt of notice.

Stage 3: Performance of Marriage

The certificates obtained must be produced in front of the Registrar at the time of marriage.7 The marriage will be conducted either by the Registrar themselves, or any other person authorized to do the same. The marriage ceremony must be attended by two witnesses, apart from the Registrar.7 In case two months have passed from receipt of the certificate, the entire process must restart with a fresh notice.8 

Stage 4: Registration of Marriage

After the performance of the marriage, the details of the marriage shall be entered in a register by the Registrar, in the prescribed format.9 The entry will be signed by the Registrar, the person who performed the marriage (if marriage was performed by someone other than the Registrar), parties to the marriage, and two witnesses who had attended the ceremony.10 

A certified copy of an entry in the marriage register, signed by the person under whose custody the register is kept, will act as evidence that the persons mentioned in the entry have been married according to the law.11 Upon payment of the prescribed fees to the Marriage Registrar, one can always inspect a marriage register which is within the custody of the said Registrar.12 

  1. Section 38, Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872.[]
  2. Section 39, Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872.[]
  3. Section 40, Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872.[]
  4. Section 41, Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872.[]
  5. Section 42, Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872.[][]
  6. Sections 41, 50-52, Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872.[]
  7. Section 51, Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872.[][]
  8. Section 52, Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872.[]
  9. Sections 53 & 54, Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872.[]
  10. Section 54, Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872.[]
  11. Section 80, Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872.[]
  12. Section 79, Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872.[]

What is the procedure for a marriage by a Licensed Minister of Religion?

A marriage performed by a licensed Minister of Religion is divided into 4 stages: 

Stage 1: Issuing of Preliminary Notice 

In case two persons wish to be married by a licensed Minister of Religion, one of them must give a notice in person to the Minister, stating their intention to be married. The notice should mention the following:

  • The name and surname, and the profession or condition, of each of the persons intending marriage.
  • The current address of each of them.
  • The time during which each has been present in the said address. In case a person has been staying there for more than a month, they only need to state the same.
  • The place of marriage – either a church or a private dwelling. 1

Given below is a sample notice:

Sample notice of marriage

 

 

The Minister will then paste the notice at a conspicuous or public place in the church. 2 If the marriage is taking place at a private dwelling, the notice will be forwarded to the Marriage Registrar of that district, and the notice will be pasted in a conspicuous place of the Registrar’s office.3 In situations where the Minister refuses to perform a marriage, the notice will be either forwarded to another Minister, or returned to the persons who wish to get married.4

Stage 2: Issuing of certificate of receipt of notice

After at least four days of receiving the notice,5 one of the persons intending marriage must make a declaration to the Minister, stating that no legal problems exist in the marriage. In case one of the parties is a minor, they need to state that the necessary steps have been taken.6 To know more about the special procedures of marriage of a minor, read our explainer on Marriages of Minors under Christian Law.

Stage 3: Performance of Marriage

After such a declaration has been made, the Minister will issue a certificate and the Minister must conduct the marriage within two months of the couple getting the certificate.7 Two witnesses must attend the marriage, apart from the Minister.8 In case two months have passed from receipt of the certificate, the entire process must restart with a fresh notice.9

Stage 4: Registration of Marriage

After the marriage is performed, the details of the marriage shall be entered in a register by the Minister.10 The entry will be signed by the Minister, parties to the marriage, and two witnesses who had attended the ceremony.11

A certified copy of an entry in the marriage register, signed by the person under whose custody the register is kept, will be legal evidence that the persons mentioned in the entry have been married according to the law.12

  1. Section 12, Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872.[]
  2. Section 13, Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872.[]
  3. Section 14, Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872.[]
  4. Section 15, Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872.[]
  5. Section 17, Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872.[]
  6. Section 18, Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872.[]
  7. Section 17, 24-26, Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872.[]
  8. Section 25, Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872.[]
  9. Section 26, Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872.[]
  10. Part IV, Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872. []
  11. Section 33, Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872.[]
  12. Section 80, Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872.[]

Is the procedure for Christian Marriage the same throughout India?

The Indian Christian Marriage law, which governs the law of Christian marriages, is applicable throughout India, except in the states of Travancore-Cochin and Manipur. 

  • In Manipur, Christian marriages take place through customary rules and personal laws. 

Travancore-Cochin is currently part of the Indian states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu. In the Cochin area of Kerala, Christian marriages take place as per the Cochin Christian Civil Marriage Act of 1920.1 The Travancore portion of the former State spreads across the Southern parts of Kerala and Tamil Nadu. While Tamil Nadu has extended the application of the law to the entire State, including the portions of Travancore that are now a part of Tamil Nadu,2 Kerala has not done the same. So, in the Southern parts of Kerala, which were previously known as the state of Travancore, Christian marriages take place according to the internal laws of the Church, which will vary across denominations.3

  1. Alex Xavier v. State of Kerala, Kerala High Court, W. P (C) No. 24424 of 2008.[]
  2. Section 3, The Indian Christian Marriage (Extension to Transferred Territory) Act, 1995.[]
  3. Sujatha v. Jose Augustine,(1994) II DMC 442 : (1994) 2 KLT 4.[]

How can minors marry under Christian Law?

Under Christian law, a minor is defined as someone below the age of 21 years, and is not a widow or widower. In case one of the parties intending marriage is a minor, they would require the consent of their father to get married. If the father of the party is not alive, then the consent must be given by their guardian, and if there exists no guardian, by the mother.1 In case none of them are resident in India at the time, no such consent will be needed.1

However, the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act makes every marriage involving a child (below 18 years), voidable at the option of the child.2 According to the law, the child can, if they opt to, file a petition to annul the marriage, within two years of attaining the age of majority.3 To learn more on child marriages, read our explainer on Child Marriage’. 

 

Procedure when marriage is performed by a licensed Minister of Religion

Given below is the general procedure followed by the Minister if a minor wants to get married under the law:

  • When a Minister receives a notice for marriage where one of the parties is a minor, they must forward the notice to the Marriage Registrar of the district.4
  • The notice will then be forwarded to the other Marriage Registrars of that district, and will be pasted on a conspicuous place in their offices.5
  • In case a person who has the authority to give consent refuses to do so, they can inform their objection towards the marriage to the concerned Minister, in writing.6 In such a case, no certificate of marriage will be issued by the Minister, unless a satisfactory enquiry has been made by the Minister into the facts.7 Such an objection must be made before the issuance of the certificate of receipt of notice.6
  • In case no objection is raised, the Minister can still wait for 14 days from the date of receiving the notice, before granting a certificate.8
  • Once a certificate is issued, the remaining procedures for performance of the marriage and registration remain the same.

Procedure when marriage is performed by or in the presence of a Marriage Registrar

Given below is the general procedure followed by a Marriage Registrar if a minor wants to get married under the law

  • When a Registrar receives a notice for marriage where one of the parties is a minor, they must forward the notice to the other Marriage Registrars of that district, and the copies of the notice will be pasted on a conspicuous place in their offices.9
  • In case a person who has the authority to give consent refuses to do so, they can inform their objection towards the marriage to the concerned Registrar, in writing.10 In such a case, no certificate of marriage will be issued by the Registrar, unless a satisfactory enquiry has been made by the Registrar.11 Such an objection must be made before the issuance of the certificate of receipt of notice.12
  • In case the person withholding the consent is of unsound mind, or if that person (not being the father) withholds consent unjustly, the parties can approach the Court. Parties who reside in the towns of Mumbai, Chennai, and Kolkata can directly approach their respective High Courts, while others can approach the District Court for the same.11
  • Moreover, if the Registrar themself has doubts regarding the authority of the person withholding consent, the Registrar can also approach the Court.13
  • In case no objection is raised, the Registrar can still wait for 14 days from the date of receiving the notice, before granting a certificate.14
  • Once the certificate is issued, the procedure for performance of the marriage and registration remains the same.
  1. Section 19, Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872.[][]
  2. Section 3(1), Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006.[]
  3. Section 3(3), Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006.[]
  4. Section 15, Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872.[]
  5. Section 16, Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872.[]
  6. Section 20, Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872.[][]
  7. Section 21, Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872.[]
  8. Section 22, Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872.[]
  9. Section 39, Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872.[]
  10. Sections 19 & 44, Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872.[]
  11. Section 45, Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872.[][]
  12. Section 44, Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872.[]
  13. Section 48, Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872.[]
  14. Section 41, Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872.[]