November,10,2015: Nearly 50 years after Tamil Nadu government legalised “self-respect” marriages which are conducted without a priest the Madras High Court has upheld the amendment made in the year 1968 to simplify Hindu marriages.
Dismissing a PIL filed by A Asuvathaman, an advocate, against the amendment to the Hindu Marriage Act, the bench comprising chief justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and justice T S Sivagnanam in its recent order said “the Hindu religion by itself is pluralist in character and thus various forms of marriage have traditionally existed depending on the area and the custom prevalent therein.”
“Section 7-A (inserted by Tamil Nadu government in 1968) provides for a particular kind of marriage – “Suyamariyathai” (self-respect) marriages – among two Hindus. It has also stood the test of time now for nearly half a century”, the judges said.
“It was the state of Tamil Nadu which legalised the Suyamariyathai marriages, which simplified conducting of marriages without Brahmin priests and the couple going seven steps around the fire 47 years ago”, the judges said.
Asuvathaman contended that “Saptapadi” (seven steps going around the fire by the couple as part of marriage ritual) was an important ritual. The amendment had attempted to bring in the philosophy of a political movement”.
He submitted that “Suyamariuathai” weddings are not in conformity with the customary rites and ceremonies and hence the amendment providing for them should be declared unconstitutional.
It was DMK founder CN Annadurai who as chief minister in 1967 signed the first file legalising self-respect marriages. In the year 1968, it became an Act by introduction of section 7A amendment to Hindu Marriages Act.
After section 7, insert the following section, namely:—
(a) by each party to the marriage declaring in any language understood by the parties that each takes the other to be his wife or, as the case may be, her husband; or
(b) by each party to the marriage garlanding the other or putting a ring upon any finger of the other; or
(c) by the tying of the thali.
(2) (a) Notwithstanding anything contained in section 7, but subject to the other provisions of this Act, all marriages to which the section applies solemnised after the commencement of the Hindu Marriage (Madras Amendment) Act, 1967, shall be good and valid in law.
(b) Notwithstanding anything contained in section 7 or in any text, rule or interpretation of Hindu law or any custom or usage as part of that law in force immediately before the commencement of the Hindu Marriage (Madras Amendment) Act, 1967, or in any other law in force immediately before such commencement or in any judgment, decree or order of any court, but subject to sub-section (3) all marriages to which this section applies solemnised at any time, before such commencement shall be deemed to have been, with effect on and from the date of the solemnisation of each such marriage, respectively, good and valid in law.
(3) Nothing contained in this section shall be deemed to—
(a) render valid any marriage referred to in clause (b) of sub-section (2), if before the commencement of the Hindu Marriage (Madras Amendment) Act, 1967,—
(i) such marriage has been dissolved under any custom or law; or
(ii) the woman who was a party to such marriage has, whether during or after the life of the other party thereto, lawfully married another; or
(b) render invalid a marriage between any two Hindus solemnised at any time before such commencement, if such marriage was valid at that time; or
(c) render valid a marriage between any two Hindus solemnised at any time before such commencement, if such marriage was invalid at that time on any ground other than that it was not solemnised in accordance with the customary rites and ceremonies of either party thereto:
Provided that nothing contained in this sub-section shall render any person liable to any punishment whatsoever by reason of anything done or omitted to be done by him before such commencement.
(4) Any child of the parties to a marriage referred to in clause (b) of sub-section (2) born of such marriage shall be deemed to be their legitimate child:
Provided that in a case falling under sub-clause (i) or sub-clause (ii) of clause (a) of sub-section (3), such child was begotten before the date of the dissolution of the marriage or, as the case may be, before the date of the second of the marriages referred to in the said sub-clause (ii).”
[Vide Tamil Nadu Act 21 of 1967, sec. 2 (w.e.f. 20-1-1968).]
Declining to declare the amendment as illegal and unconstitutional, the HC judges, quoting a Supreme Court judgement, in its order said that “the amendment inserted by Tamil Nadu applies to any marriage between two Hindus solemnised in the presence of relatives, friends or other persons.”
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