Madras HC turns down challenge to priest-less marriage, upholds 50 year old state amendment validating the same [Read Judgment]

Madras HC turns down challenge to priest-less marriage, upholds 50 year old state amendment validating the same [Read Judgment]

The Hindu religion by itself is pluralism in character and thus, various forms of marriages have traditionally existed depending on the area and the custom prevalent therein, the Court said while rejecting the challenge against marriages conducted without the Priests.

The Madras High Court has upheld a 50 year old State amendment of Hindu Marriage Act, which validated the marriages conducted without the presence of a Priest. The First bench of the High Court comprising of Chief Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice T.S.Sivagnanam, dismissed the PIL filed by an Advocate challenging Section 7A of the Hindu Marriage Act.

According to the petitioner, State Amendment of Section 7-A clearly seeks to bring the philosophy of political movement to provide for a marriage which is not in conformity with the customary rites and ceremonies and that too without much debate. He also contended that this provision is, thus, ultra vires the provision of Section 7 read with Section 3(a) and contrary tothe very tenets of Hinduism. He submitted that this provision treats equals as unequals under Article 14 of the Constitution of India. It is stated that this is arbitrary and thus, it violates the said provision of law.

Section 7-A of Hindu Marriage Act

Section 7-A of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, as inserted by the State of Tamil Nadu applies to any marriage between two Hindus solemnized in the presence of relatives, friends or other persons. The main thrust of this provision is that the presence of a Priest is not necessary for the performance of a valid marriage. The parties can enter into a marriage in the presence of relatives or friends or other persons and each party to the marriage should declare in the language understood by the parties that each takes other to be his wife or, as the case may be, her husband, and the marriage would be completed by a simple ceremony requiring the parties to themarriage to garland each other or put a ring upon any finger of the other or tie a thali. Any of these ceremonies, namely garlanding each other or putting a ring upon any finger of the other or tying a thali would be sufficient to complete a valid marriage

Priest-less marriage not unconstitutional

Rejecting his contentions the Court observed that insertion of Section 7-A, t is a legislative exercise and the tests for the same are different. The Court also said that  there is no conflict or violation of Section 7 of the Act on account of insertion of Section 7-A by way of State amendment. Mere utterance of Article 14 of the Constitution of India is not sufficient, as there is no case of discrimination since option is available to any of the parties who want to enter into a matrimony to proceed in accordance with the original Section 7 or as per Section 7-A of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, the Court said. The Court said that, except for referring to Article 14 of the Constitution of India, nothing has been placed by the Petitioner to show that the Madras Amendment Act, 1967 viz., Section 7-A, which was inserted about 50 year ago, does in any manner amounts to class legislation

The Court remarked “The Hindu religion by itself is pluralism in character and thus, various forms of marriages have traditionally existed depending on the area and the custom prevalent therein. Section 7-A provides for particular kind of marriages i.e. suyamariyathai marriages among two Hindus. It has also stood the test of time now for half a century.”

The court also, on a lighter note, remarked about the Petitioner-“The only purpose served by this writ petition is raising a divisive issue – as if we have any shortage of the same! We have asked the petitioner whether he was facing any difficulty personally, but he states that he was happily married. If he had a problem, possibly, solution could have been found.”

Read the Judgment here.