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Inter-Religious Marriages : Following Complaints Of Misuse, Kerala Govt Stops Publication Of Notice Of Marriage In Website

Ashok Kini
25 July 2020 11:29 AM GMT
Inter-Religious Marriages : Following Complaints Of Misuse, Kerala Govt Stops Publication Of Notice Of Marriage In Website
"The move is on account of many complaints received by the Government that this facility is being misused by some groups for communal propaganda. "
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The Kerala Government has issued a circular prohibiting the prevailing practice of uploading of 'notices of intended marriage' under Special Marriage Act in the website of Registration Department.
The move is on account of many complaints received by the Government that this facility is being misused by some groups for communal propaganda. Publication of such notices in the concerned Sub Registrar's offices would suffice, the Minister G. Sudhakaran said.

"The notices published on the portal of the Registration Department are being misused for communal propaganda and complaints regarding this has been received by the Chief Minister and the Registration Department. The personal details of the applicants are being misused and the practice also infringes their privacy rights.", the Minister's office stated in a circular issued yesterday.

Notice of Intended Marriage
Marriage under Special Marriage Act is usually opted by inter faith couples. Section 5 of the Act provides that the parties who intend to marry under this Act shall give notice thereof in writing in the specified form to the Marriage Officer of the district in which at least one of the parties to the marriage has resided for a period of not less than thirty days immediately preceding the date on which such notice is given.
The Marriage Officer is then expected to keep all such notices with the records of his office and to forthwith enter a true copy of every such notice in the Marriage Notice Book. Such shall be open for inspection at all reasonable times, without fee, by any person desirous of inspecting the same. The Marriage office is also expected to cause every such notice to be published by affixing a copy thereof to some conspicuous place in his office. If one of the party is not permanently residing within the local limits of the district of the Marriage Officer, he shall also cause a copy of such notice to be transmitted to the Marriage Officer of the district within whose limits such party is permanently residing, and that Marriage Officer shall thereupon cause a copy thereof to be affixed to some conspicuous place in his office. Any person can before the expiration of thirty days of publishing of such notices can raise objection against the marriage. The Marriage officer, after considering these objections, can proceed to reject them or uphold them. 

Only after completing all these statutory hurdles, inter faith couples can have their marriage solemnized under the Special Marriage Act. 

Relevant Objections

It is relevant to note that one can object to the marriage on the ground that it would contravene one or more of the conditions specified in section 4 like (a) neither party has a spouse living;  (b) neither party—(i) is incapable of giving a valid consent to it in consequence of unsoundness of mind; or (ii) though capable of giving a valid consent, has been suffering from mental disorder of such a kind or to such an extent as to be unfit for marriage and the procreation of children; or(iii) has been subject to recurrent attacks of insanity. (c) the male has completed the age of twenty-one years and the female the age of eighteen years; (d) the parties are not within the degrees of prohibited relationship. 

Objections raised to a marriage on any other ground other than the above mentioned ones are not relevant.The lack of consent of parents or relatives cannot be a ground to object a marriage under the Special Marriage Act. 

Misuse By Communal Groups

The notice of intended marriage contain the name, address, age, occupation, photos and signatures of the bride and groom and the publication is also mandatory.

Recently, many Marriage officers are publishing scanned copy of such notices on the website of the Kerala government's Registration Department, and the same can be accessed by anyone easily. 

In a recent report, The News Minute reported about a viral whatsapp forward which contained the images of the Notices of Intended Marriage of many interfaith couples, who got married or whose marriages were yet to be registered under the Special Marriage Act. The whatsapp forward branded their relationship as 'love jihad'.

Practice of Posting/Sending Notices To Residential Addresses Unwarranted

In Pranav Kumar Mishra vs. Govt. Of NCT. Of Delhi (2009), the Delhi High Court allowed a writ petition challenging the practice of posting the notice of intended marriage under the Special Marriages Act at the residential addresses of both parties to the marriage as also through the Station House officer (S.H.O.) of the police station of concerned jurisdiction for the purpose of verification of address. "The unwarranted disclosure of matrimonial plans by two adults entitled to solemnize it may, in certain situations, jeopardize the marriage itself. In certain instances, it may even endanger the life or limb of one at the other party due to parental interference.", Justice S. Ravindra Bhat had observed. The court had further observed that though it is open to the concerned Marriage Officer to display the notice on the office notice board in accordance with law, they should not despatch notices to the residence of the applicants.

The Punjab-Haryana High Court in A vs State Of Haryana (2018), followed the above judgment while considering a writ petition seeking to restrain the practice of sending notices of intended marriage to the parents of the applicants and publication of proposed marriage in a National newspaper. Haryana Government had issued a Court Marriage Check List (CMCL) which contained these requirements. The court held that these terms and conditions largely violate the rights to privacy of the couple and also directed the Haryana Government to suitably amend the Court Marriage Check List (CMCL).

The Rajasthan High Court in Kuldeep Singh Meena vs State Of Rajasthan (2018) had also held that hat the procedure of affixing the notice at the residence of the parties is not warranted or authorised by law.

Publishing of Notice In Website Violates Right To Privacy

At least two High Courts have followed the Delhi HC judgment by Justice Ravindra Bhat (who is now a Supreme Court judge), that unwarranted disclosure of matrimonial plans by two adults can jeopardize the marriage itself and can even endanger their life. These High Courts, as is evident from the above cited judgments, have held that the practice of sending the notices to residential addresses of the parties, is unauthorized and that it infringed the Right to Privacy, which has been declared as a fundamental right by the Supreme Court.

Viewed from this angle, the publication of the notices which contains personal details of individuals in a website, posed greater threat to privacy rights. If the issuance of notice to residential addresses of couple is an infringement of privacy rights, then making these details accessible by public through website is more prone to misuse. It is heartening to see that the Kerala Government has put an end to this dangerous practice, even though it should not have started it at all.

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