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Should Arya Samaj Temples Follow Special Marriage Act Provisions While Solemnising Marriages? Supreme Court To Consider

Sohini Chowdhury
5 April 2022 7:27 AM GMT
Should Arya Samaj Temples Follow Special Marriage Act Provisions While Solemnising Marriages? Supreme Court To Consider
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The Supreme Court, on Monday(April 4), agreed to hear a plea challenging a Madhya Pradesh High Court order directing Madhya Bharat Arya Pratinidhi Sabha ("Sabha"), an Arya Samaj organisation to comply with the provisions of the Special Marriage Act, 1954 ("SMA") while solemnising marriages. The High Court had further held that no one other than the competent authority under the SMA...

The Supreme Court, on Monday(April 4), agreed to hear a plea challenging a Madhya Pradesh High Court order directing Madhya Bharat Arya Pratinidhi Sabha ("Sabha"), an Arya Samaj organisation to comply with the provisions of the Special Marriage Act, 1954 ("SMA") while solemnising marriages. The High Court had further held that no one other than the competent authority under the SMA can issue marriage certificates.

A Bench comprising Justices K.M. Joseph and Hrishikesh Roy issued notice as well as stayed the operation of the High Court order, wherein the Sabha was directed to amend its Guidelines dated 26.08,2016, by incorporating the provisions of Section 5, 6, 7 and 8 of the SMA, within a months' time. It was also restrained by the High Court from performing marriages.

By way of the Guidelines dated 26.08.2016, the Sabha directed all Arya Samaj temples affiliated to it to comply with the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 and to strictly follow the procedure laid down therein with respect to the proof of age of the parties and their mutual consent.

Arguments of the petitioner

Senior Advocate, Mr. Shyam Divan appearing on behalf of the Sabha argued that by passing the impugned order, the High Court had usurped the jurisdiction of the legislature which does not impose any requirement in the Arya Marriage Validation Act, 1937 and the Hindu Marriage Act to solemnise the marriage in terms of the SMA. It was further submitted that if the marriage so solemnised is between two Hindus then there is no requirement to comply with the prerequisite conditions, like, notice of intended marriage, publication of notice marriage notebook, objection to marriage and the procedure, enumerated in provisions of the SMA. Moreover, such preconditions had been held to be contrary to Arya Marriage Act and the Hindu Marriage Act by the Madhya Pradesh High Court itself in another Writ Appeal.

As per Section 2(a) of the Hindu Marriage Act, it applies to any person who is a Hindu by religion and in any of its forms or developments including Arya Samaj. It was contended that the order of the High Court is incongruous with the principles envisaged in Articles 14, 25 and 26 of the Constitution. Apart from violating the right to freely practice its religion, the High Court had exceeded its jurisdiction in interfering with rights of a religious denomination to conduct its own religious affairs.

Background

On 13.05.2013, an adult Hindu girl whose marriage was solemnised at the Arya Samaj Mandir moved a Habeas Corpus petition before the High Court for protection from her husband. The Madhya Pradesh High Court extended protection by directing the Arya Samaj Temples to provide prior intimation to the parents of the bride, the groom and the concerned police station and collect in advance the presence of five friends and relatives each, etc. The Sabha was not made a party to the said petition. On 30.10.2013, the Sabha filed an appeal challenging the order of the Single Judge, which was allowed on the ground that the it was not made a party and that the order of the Single Judge was not in consonance with the provisions of the Hindu Marriage Act. As it was not challenged further, the order had attained finality. On 26.08.2016, the Sabha issued guidelines for the Arya Samaj temples reinstating adherence to the provisions of the Hindu Marriage Act.

On 13.10.2016, another Habeas Corpus petition was filed and the High Court directed the Sabha to follow the pre-requisite conditions as provided in the Special Marriage Act while solemnising marriages. On appeal, the order of the Single Judge was set aside and no further appeals were preferred by the parties.

The present round of litigation emanates from a Writ Petition filed by a couple who got allegedly married in a ceremony solemnised by a Samiti, which the Sabha claimed was not affiliated to it. The High Court, on 09.12.2020 passed its order directing the Sabha to amend its guidelines to incorporate specific provisions of the SMA. A review was preferred by the Sabha, wherein stay was granted in the order passed by the Single Judge. During the pendency of the appeal and as the interim stay was in force, a Writ Appeal was filed by the Samiti assailing the order dated 09.12.2020. On a couple of occasions, the High Court adjourned the matter as the review was pending. However, on 17.12.2021, it dismissed the appeal upholding the order of the Single Judge dated 09.12.2020, against which the present Special Leave Petition was filed.

The SLP had been filed before the Apex Court by Advocate-on-Record, Ms. Vanshaja Shukla.

[Case Title: Secretary, Madhya Pradesh Arya Pratinidhi Sabha v. State of Madhya Pradesh And Ors.]


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