Holding that a writ would not lie to enforce purely private law rights, the Kerala High Court observed that no public duty or public function is being carried out by a Church by solemnization of marriage between two members of the diocese.
The issue raised in the petition filed by a couple was whether the Church or the Diocese, of which the petitioners are members, can refuse to solemnize their marriage.
The maintainability of such a writ petition was objected by the Church contending that unless and until it is demonstrated that fundamental right is violated or that the Church falls within the definition of 'State' under Article 12 of the Constitution of India, no writ can be issued against the Church. On facts, it was submitted that the petitioner's relationship with another woman and that he is an accused in a rape case was an impediment against solemnization of petitioners' marriage.
Referring to the Indian Christian Marriage Act, Justice VG Arun observed:
Thus, even in cases where a person, body of persons or an institution is found to be performing a public duty, a writ would not lie to enforce purely private law rights, which in the case of the petitioners is solemnization of their marriage…. The decision of the House of Lords in Aston Cantlow and Wilmcote with Billesley Parochial Church Council v. Wallbank and Another [(2003) UKHL 37] relied on by the learned counsel for the petitioner in support of his contention that persons or bodies whose functions are of public nature are amenable to writ jurisdiction, is not applicable since no public duty or public function is being carried out by the Church by solemnization of marriage between two members of the diocese.
The court then dismissed the writ petition finding to be not maintainable.
Advocates S.Vinod Bhat, Legith T.Kottakkal appeared for the petitioners while Advocates T.N.Manoj K.R.Rija, Suman Chakravarthy represented the respondents.
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