Following demands by various minority groups, particularly Sikhs, to change the law on registration of marriages, which shows them as Hindus, the government is finalising a proposal to offer the option of issuing registration certificates without mentioning the religion.
The law ministry's proposal will provide the government with two options — first is to amend the Births and Deaths Registration Act, 1969, by adding a marriages registration clause.
The ministry view is that since the infrastructure for registration of births and deaths is already available, addition of marriages registration clause to this law could provide an answer to the demand being raised by minority groups.
"It has been pointed out that around five million (50 lakh) Sikh NRIs face hardships abroad since their marriage certificates are made under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. Many countries in the West recognise Sikhism as a separate religion...," said a top ministry official.
Apart from Sikhs, such a move is likely to benefit Jains and Buddhists, who are also currently issued certificates under the Hindu law. Therefore, the ministry is set to recommend to the cabinet that offering this new option, in addition to continuing the existing practice of having religion-based certificates, would solve the problem.
"Our recommendation is also based on the fact that making registration of marriages religion neutral would also help those facing social and community pressures for having married according to their wishes, which is many times not acceptable to families and relatives," said a top ministry official.
The law ministry would also offer a second option to the cabinet, which is to implement the 100 year-old Anand Marriage Act of 1909, which defines marriages among Sikhs.