Report No. 15
3. Local extent.-
We shall now discuss in detail the main points on which the law requires revision. The first question that has to be considered is as to the territories to which the proposed law should apply. We have provided that it should extend to the whole of India except Jammu and Kashmir. At present the Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872, has no application to the areas of the State of Travancore-Cochin and Kashmir, though, it should be noted, the Indian Divorce Act, 1869, was made applicable to the whole of India except the State of Jammu and Kashmir.
A suggestion has been made to us that the proposed legislation should not extend to the erstwhile Travancore-Cochin State, which has now become merged in the State of Kerala, and the main ground that has been urged in support of it is that the Syrian Christians who form a considerable proportion of the population in that State are governed by a customary law of marriage, which is ancient, and differs from that in force among other Christian communities, and that that should not be disturbed. But an examination of that customary law does not reveal any such radical difference as would justify a separate treatment.
Under that law, parties who intend to marry give notice thereof to the clergyman, who publishes it in two successive meetings of congregations, and if there is no objection, the marriage is solemnised. If there is any objection, then the matter is enquired into by a Bishop, and his decision is final. No marriage is solemnised if the parties are within prohibited degrees of consanguinity or affinity. That, in brief, is the customary law, and that does not differ in substance from the mode of solemnisation in Roman Catholic Churches, and there is therefore no sufficient justification to exclude the territories of the erstwhile Travancore-Cochin State from the proposed Act.
We should add that though the suggestion for exclusion of Travancore-Cochin from the Act was made in the written representations, no witnesses appeared before us to support the suggestion. The position regarding the State of Manipur is similar. The Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872, does not apply to it, but the Indian Divorce Act, 1869, does. It is desirable that as far as possible there should be one uniform law for all Christians in India. We have, accordingly, recommended that the proposed legislation should apply to the erstwhile Travancore-Cochin State as well as Manipur.