Inter-Faith Marriage to be Registered Only under Special Marriage Act

The High Court of Kerala in Writ Petition number WP(Crl.).No. 294 of 2016 (S) decided on 19.08.2016 has held that "When the parties belong to two different and distinct religions, a legally valid marriage could be conducted only by having the same registered under the Special Marriage Act, 1954".

In the present case the Petitioner, had a granddaughter named Neenu Elizabeth Abraham who used to study in a Homestay at Vulavoor Junction, Puthupadi, Kerala. On 11.8.2016 the Petitioner was informed by the owner of the Home Stay at Puthupady that Neenu had left the place without their permission.

Both the Petitioner and her younger son tried to contact Neenu over mobile phone. In the evening when they contacted Neenu, she told the Petitioner's younger son that she was on her way to Chengannur to her mother's paternal home. However, she did not reach there. In the above circumstances, Petitioner complained to the police. Crime No. 1875 of 2016 was registered.

Petitioner was then informed that Neenu was abducted by the 5th respondent who is working as a taxi driver at Thiruvananthapuram. The investigation conducted by the Police revealed that Neenu was at a house in Valiyamala along with the 5th respondent. It is alleged that though the petitioner's family members had gone to the house of the 5th respondent, he did not permit them to see Neenu. Therefore, contending that the 5th respondent had no right to detain Neenu, this writ petition is filed.

On 16.08.2016 the High Court of Kerala passed an order to produce Neenu before it on 19.08.2016. On the said date Neenu appeared with the 5th Respondent where Neenu handed over to the Court, a Marriage Certificate dated 13.08.2016 issued by the SNDP Yogam, Nedumangad Union, Pazhakutty P.O., Nedumangad, SNDP Yogam Branch No. 1386-Chandramangalam. The said certificate was certified by the Secretary of the SNDP Yogam and stated that the marriage between Neenu and Respondent No. 5 was solemnized at the Branch on 12.08.2016. Neenu also produced before the Court an acknowledgment cum receipt for money dated 12.8.2016 issued under Section 51 of the Special Marriage Act, 1954 evidencing the fact that the Petitioner and the 5th respondent have given notice of their intention to get married thereby by suggestive of the fact that they shall be in a position to get married any day after 12.09.2016. Neenu and the 5th respondent have been living together as husband and wife ever since their marriage on 12.8.2016 believing that the said marriage was legal.

The Hon'ble High Court observed that no legally valid marriage has taken place between Neenu and the 5th respondent. That the said Certificate of SNDP, Yogam is misleading and has no validity in the eye of law. This is for the reason that the 5th respondent is a Hindu while Neenu is a Christian. It is unclear as to how a marriage could be conducted at Sakha Office. The certificate does not mention that a traditional marriage had been conducted. No law, religious custom or practice, to our knowledge, permits such a marriage.

The Court thus held that in the present case, as already noticed above, since no valid marriage has taken place, it is necessary that the parties register their marriage in accordance with the provisions of the Special Marriage Act, 1954 without further delay.

A traditional marriage is held valid when parties belong to the same religion and that they are persons entitled to get married in accordance with the rites of their religion. It is also necessary to ensure that the marriage was conducted in accordance with the traditional religious rites and rituals associated with the performance of marriages and at places where such ceremonies are permitted by the customs and practices of such religion. A certificate issued by the competent religious functionary certifying to the above facts could be accepted as proof of such a traditional marriage.