My friend wants to get married to an older man who belongs to another religion. I do not approve of this. Can I object to her marriage under the Special Marriage Act?

Any person may object to a marriage if it goes against any of the requirements given in Section 4 of the Act. The objection must be made within 30 days of publication of the notice of the intended marriage. When an objection is made, the Marriage Officer will not allow the marriage to be performed until they address the objection. They will then make a decision within 30 days of the objection whether to uphold it or not. If they uphold the objection they will not perform the marriage.

I am a Hindu woman and I want to get married to a Muslim man. Is this possible?

Yes. Inter-religious marriages are permitted under the Special Marriage Act. Even if the marrying parties belong to different religions, they can get married under this Act without having to convert or change their religion. The only requirement is the valid consent of the parties. You must be at least 21 years old (if male) or 18 years old (if female).

What happens when you register an inter-religious marriage?

A marriage that has been registered under the Act by a marriage officer will be entered in the Marriage Certificate Book and will be deemed to be a legitimate marriage under the Act. All the children born after the date of the ceremony will also be considered to be legitimate children.

Guide on Registration of Inter-religious Marriages

How can the guide help you?

The Nyaaya Guide on Inter-religious Marriages outlines the process involved if you wish to enter into an inter-religious or inter-faith civil marriage. Under the Special Marriage Act, 1954, two people belonging to different religions can get married without converting to another religion. This guide summarizes the legal and procedural aspects of entering into an inter-religious (special) marriage,  including giving notice of the marriage, performing the marriage, and obtaining the marriage certificate.

What are the laws being discussed in the guide?

The Nyaaya Guide on Inter-religious Marriages  explains the Special Marriage Act, 1954. This Guide only covers the general law based on the Special Marriage Act, and you might have to refer to state-specific Special Marriage rules and procedures for more detailed information suited to your situation.

PROCEDURAL INFORMATION

Things to Remember Before Applying

Who can get married under the Special Marriage law? 

Irrespective of religion, any two people can marry under the Special Marriage Act as long as certain conditions are fulfilled. However, the Act only provides for a marriage between a man and a woman, and has not yet expanded its scope to cover same-sex couples and transgender people.

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Who is eligible to marry under the Special Marriage law? 

If you want to get married under this law, then at the time of the marriage you should be:

  • Single or Divorced. You should not be married to another person who is currently alive.
  • Capable of giving consent to the marriage with a sound mind.

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Where do you go to register an Inter-Religious (Special) Marriage?

To register a special marriage, you should go to the Marriage Officer’s office, found in every district.

 

STEPS FOR AN INTER-RELIGIOUS (SPECIAL) MARRIAGE

Giving Notice of the Marriage

If you want to get married under the Special Marriage Act, you need to give a written notice of the marriage. The notice should be sent to the Marriage Officer of the district where you or the person you want to marry have been living. You should have been living in the district you are giving notice in for at least thirty days before notifying the Officer.

You have to submit documents for registering the marriage. While the required documents vary according to the State/Union Territory, here is a general list of documents you might require:

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Publication of the Notice

The Marriage Officer will keep the notice with their office records and enter a true copy in the Marriage Notice Book, which can be inspected by any person at all reasonable times, free of cost. The Officer will also publish the notice by attaching a copy of the notice in a clearly visible place in their office.

At the time of applying for marriage, if you are not  permanently residing within the district, the Marriage Officer will transfer a copy of the notice to the Marriage Officer of the district where you are permanently residing, and that Marriage Officer will attach a copy of the notice in a clearly visible place in their office.

Objecting to the Marriage

After a Marriage Officer publishes the marriage notice, any person can object to the intended marriage if it violates any of the conditions for a valid marriage under the Special Marriage Act. The  objection must be made within thirty days of the notice publication.

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Upholding Objection

If the Marriage Officer upholds the objection and refuses to perform the marriage, you can appeal to the concerned district court i.e., the court having judicial authority in the district where the Marriage Officer has their office. You should make the appeal within thirty days of the Officer’s refusal. The district court will take the final decision on the appeal, and the Officer will obey the decision of the court.

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Performing the Marriage

Before the marriage is performed, you, the person you are marrying, as well as three witnesses, should sign a declaration in front of the Marriage Officer. The Officer will also sign the declaration.

You can perform the  marriage at the office of the Marriage Officer. You can also choose to get married at any other place within a reasonable distance from the office. However, for this, you have to pay additional fees.

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The Marriage Certificate

After the marriage has been conducted, the Marriage Officer will enter a certificate in the Marriage Certificate Book.

You, the person you are marrying as well as  three witnesses must sign the marriage certificate. After the Officer enters the  certificate in the Book, this certificate becomes conclusive evidence of the marriage.

The marriage certificate is legal proof of a marriage under the Special Marriage Act, 1954. It confirms that the marriage is valid and has been completed with all formalities under the law.

 

What is a ‘Special Marriage’ or Inter-Religious Marriage?

Civil marriages, also commonly called ‘Special Marriages’ or ‘Inter-religious marriages’ do not depend on the religion of the couple. Instead, the marriage happens under the Special Marriage Act where a couple practicing a different faith or religion have the right to get married in India.1

To get married under this law, you need to figure out if you and your spouse are legally eligible to get married. For example, you need to be over a certain age to be able to get married and you cannot have another living spouse from whom you have not been divorced.

 

  1. The Special Marriage Act, 1954.[]

Conditions To Be Fulfilled For A Valid Inter-Religious Marriage

The following are the conditions you have to keep in mind at the time of marriage:1

  • Neither party has a living spouse.
  • Neither party:
    • is incapable of giving valid consent to the marriage in consequence of unsoundness of mind.
    • though capable of giving valid consent, has been suffering from mental disorder of such a kind that they are unfit for marriage and unfit to have children.
    • has been subject to recurrent attacks of insanity or epilepsy.
  • The male is at least twenty-one years of age and the female is at least eighteen years of age.
  • The parties are not within the degrees of prohibited relationship.

Marriages governed by customs

In cases where customs are involved for a person belonging to a tribe, community, group, or family, the State Government can make rules governing them and the solemnization of marriage. This is not needed in cases where:

  • Such customs have been continuously observed for a long time among the members.
  • Customs or rules are not against public policy.
  • The customs or rules are applicable only to a family and the family is still continuing the practice.

In cases where the marriage is solemnized in the State of Jammu and Kashmir both parties should be citizens of India living in the territories to which the Act extends.

 

  1. Section 4, The Special Marriage Act, 1954.[]

Process Of Registration of Inter-Religious Marriage Under The Act

The process of registration for a Special Marriage is as follows:

Give notice to the Marriage Officer

  • When a marriage is to be performed under this law, the parties getting married shall give notice1 in writing to the Marriage Officer of the district in which at least one of them has lived for at least thirty days immediately before the date of the notice. Upon receiving an application signed by both the marrying parties for the registration of their marriage, the Marriage Officer shall give public notice and allow thirty days for objections, and hear any objection received within that period.
  • The Marriage Officer will keep all such notices with the records of their office and will also enter a true copy of every such notice in a Marriage Notice Book,2  which must be open for inspection at all reasonable times, without fee, by any person.
  • The Marriage Officer shall publish every such notice by attaching a copy to some noticeable place in their office. Where either of the marrying parties is not permanently living within the district of the Marriage Officer, the Officer shall also pass on a copy to the Marriage Officer of the district where they are permanently living, and that Marriage Officer shall attach a copy to some noticeable place in their office.

Sign a declaration for marriage

  • Before the marriage is performed the parties and three witnesses will sign a declaration3 in the presence of the Marriage Officer, and the declaration will also be signed by the Marriage Officer. The declaration is in the form specified in the Third Schedule of the Act.

Performance of Marriage and Marriage Certificate

  • When the marriage has been performed4 and all the conditions are fulfilled, the Marriage Officer will enter the details in a certificate in the Marriage Certificate Book. This certificate will be signed by the parties getting married and the three witnesses. The Certificate will then be unquestionable evidence that a legal marriage has been performed and that all formalities regarding the signatures of witnesses have been followed.

 

  1. Section 5, The Special Marriage Act, 1954.[]
  2. Section 6, The Special Marriage Act, 1954.[]
  3. Section 11, The Special Marriage Act, 1954.[]
  4. Section 12, The Special Marriage Act, 1954.[]

Solemnizing an Inter-Religious Marriage

There is no specific form or essential ceremony for a marriage under Special Marriage Act, but there are two possibilities:1

When you and your spouse do not want religious ceremonies

  • The parties can choose not to perform any religious ceremony and merely register their marriage before the Marriage Officer. You can decide how to perform the marriage but you and your spouse have to say the following to each other: ‘I, [your name] take thee [your spouse’s name] to be my lawful wife/husband.’ This has to be done in front of the Marriage Officer and three witnesses.

When you and your spouse want religious ceremonies for your wedding

  • You can perform any religious ceremony (according to the personal law) and then register your marriage under the Special Marriage Act. There is one condition: you and your spouse should have been living as husband and wife from the date of the ceremony until the date of registration.

 

  1. Section 12 and 15, The Special Marriage Act, 1954.[]