Plea in Supreme Court over Special Marriage Act provisions
The provisions under Special Marriage Act (SMA) requiring parties to an intended marriage to publish their private details for public scrutiny 30 days prior to the intended marriage violates the right to privacy of the parties, a petition filed before the Supreme Court said.
The petition filed on August 31 by one Nandini Praveen, a law student from Kerala stated that the requirement was also in violation of right to equality under Article 14 of the Constitution since no other laws prescribe such a requirement.
“Publication of personal details often might have a chilling effect on the right to marry. In other words, couples are asked to waive the right to privacy to exercise the right to marry. This infringes the rights of autonomy, dignity and the right to marry, of various couples,” the petition settled by advocate Kaleeswaram Raj said.
The right to privacy is held to be an aspect of the right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution, the plea pointed out.
The SMA is a law which allows solemnization of marriages without going through any religious customs or rituals. People from different castes or religions or states get married under SMA in which marriage is solemnized by way of registration.
The SMA prescribes an elaborate procedure to get the marriage registered. First, one of the parties to the marriage has to give a notice of the intended marriage to the marriage officer of the district where at least one of the parties to the marriage has resided for at least 30 days immediately prior to the date on which such notice is given.
Such notice is then entered in the marriage notice book and the marriage officer publishes a notice of marriage at some conspicuous place in his office. The notice of marriage published by the marriage officer includes details of the parties like names, date of birth, age, occupation, parents’ names and details, address, pin code, identity information, phone number etc. This is a peculiar requirement of the SMA.
Anybody can then raise objections to the marriage on various grounds provided under the Act. If no objection is raised within the 30 day period, then marriage can be solemnized. If objections are raised, then the marriage officer has to inquire into the objections after which he will decide whether or not to solemnize the marriage.
“Clauses (2) and (3) of Section 6 to the extent to which those direct to cause affixation of notice in some conspicuous place in the office of Marriage Officer are violative of the right to privacy of the parties to the marriage,” Praveen submitted.
The petition highlighted the troubles faced by couples due to the requirement of making their personal details public.
“Reports of honour killings and violence against inter-caste and inter-religious couples are predominant. One of the ways to access details of the couples marrying under the SMA is through the public notice under Sections 6(2) and 6(3) of the SMA,” the plea said.
Besides, no other law except the Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872 has a requirement to make personal details public, the petitioner submitted.
“The prime purpose of the Act was to address Inter-religious marriages and to establish marriage as a secular institution bereft of all religious formalities, which required registration alone. But this same law discriminates against inter-faith couples through Sections6(2) and 6(3) by requiring publication of notice of intended marriage. No other personal law, except the Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872 has a requirement like the above,” it was contended.