Registration of marriage should be made compulsory: Law Commission
Registration of marriages should be made compulsory under law to prevent marriage frauds, bigamy, child marriages and desertions of women by their husbands, the Law Commission of India has told the government.
In its report submitted to the law ministry on Tuesday evening, the law panel, while recommending that registration be legally mandated with a fine for non-compliance within 30 days, also advised the government against making changes to existing personal laws.
Registration is already mandatory in certain states and Union Territories.The panel has recommended amending the Registration of Births and Deaths Act, 1969, to include marriages.
However, it clarified that the proposal wouldn’t impinge on any personal laws.
“Thus, while Bill does not aim at eliminating the diversity of personal laws, or regional differences seeking merely the registration of marriages regardless of the law under which the marriages are recognised or solemnised, it recommends that these various overlapping and contradicting legislations be borne in mind while framing the rules of registration,” said the report.
The Commission suggested that the time limit to register marriages should be restricted to 30 days after which a penalty of ₹5 per day could be imposed.
If the birth, marriage or death is not registered within the specified time limit, for one year, it could be done only with the written permission of the prescribed authority and after that, only on an order of a First Class Magistrate, the Commission recommended.
“Going forward, the non-registration of a marriage can be linked to property rights like in case of Goa to ensure better compliance,” a Law Commission official said. He added that the law will not interfere with the existing personal laws of any community or “disturb any existing rights”.
Registering marriages is a necessary reform and in its absence, women in particular can become victims of fraud, the Commission has said.
“This deprives women of societal recognition and legal security. Such fraudulent marriages are especially on rise among Non-Resident Indians. Compulsory registration can serve as a means to ensure that conditions of a valid marriage have been performed,” the report said.
Referring to repeated judgments by courts emphasising making registration of marriages compulsory to prevent denial of legal marital status to women, the panel observed, “Instances of marriage fraud have also come to light in recent times. In the absence of compulsory registration, women are duped into marrying without performance of the conditions of a valid marriage,” it said.
In 2006, the Supreme Court in the Ashwani Kumar case had observed that marriages of all persons who are citizens of India belonging to various religions should be registered compulsorily in their respective states where the marriage is solemnised.
The law panel has asked the government to come up with a simple process to register marriages. “A simple certificate issued by a religious place can become the basis of registration of a marriage. We have recommended that the village head or sarpanch can be given the authority for such registrations,” a Law Commission official said.
In 2012, the government tabled a bill in Parliament based on the Supreme Court’s observations but it lapsed at the end of the 15th Lok Sabha in 2014. The panel suggests that the government enact a similar law.