Report No. 270
Chapter - IV
4.1 The Supreme Court and the High Courts have time and again emphasised on the need to make registration of marriages compulsory. The most notable decision came in Seema v. Ashwani Kumar15 while dealing with the matter related to issue(s) of marriages observed as under:
"[...] we are of the view that marriages of all persons who are citizens of India belonging to various religions should be made compulsorily registrable in their respective States, where the marriage is solemnised."
4.2 Thus the Court directed that the States and the Central Governments to take the following steps:
(i) The procedure for registration should be notified by respective States within three months from today. This can be done by amending the existing Rules, if any, or by framing new Rules. However, objections from members of the public shall be invited before bringing the said Rules into force. In this connection, due publicity shall be given by the States and the matter shall be kept open for objections for a period of one month from the date of advertisement inviting objections. On the expiry of the said period, the States shall issue appropriate notification bringing the Rules into force.
(ii) The officer appointed under the said Rules of the States shall be duly authorized to register the marriages. The age, marital status (unmarried, divorcee) shall be clearly stated. The consequence of non-registration of marriages or for filing false declaration shall also be provided for in the said Rules. Needless to add that the object of the said Rules shall be to carry out the directions of this Court.
(iii) As and when the Central Government enacts a comprehensive statute, the same shall be placed before this Court for scrutiny."
4.3 The compliance of the above order by all States and Union Territories is yet to be reported. The case has been listed 34 times. It was last listed on 21.3.2017. Many States and Union Territories have filed affidavits reporting compliance of above directives and some are yet to file as discussed in the previous chapter.
4.4 In Kanagavalli v. Saroja16, the Madras High Court underlined the importance of registration in providing security to women. It opined that if registration were compulsory, prosecution for bigamy could be made easy. If a Hindu male contracts a second marriage and registers it, at least the second wife will have as proof, the document to show that the marriage was registered between her and the man. It remarked:17
non-registration of marriages has landed many women ... in a relationship which while extracting from her, all the duties of a wife, leaves her with neither the right under law, nor the recognition in society. In addition, the Hindu male is able to contract a second marriage without any fear.
4.5 Similarly, in Baljit Kaur & Anr v. State of Punjab & Anr.18, the Punjab and Haryana High Court reiterated the ratio in Seema case and opined that making registration of marriage compulsory would reduce the disputes related to solemnization of marriages.19
4.6 It has been opined by the Kerala Court that an instruction that marriages solemnised between persons belonging to different religion are not registrable under the Common Rules formulated pursuant to the Supreme Court's decision in Seema Case is repugnant and contrary to the provisions contained in the Rules.20 In S. Balakrishnan Pandiyan v. The Superintendent of Police21, the high court emphasised that the Tamil Nadu Registration of Marriages Act, 2009 is a secular law and it makes registration of marriages performed under all religious faiths compulsory. It also held that the Registrars in the State of Tamil Nadu can register the marriage without the presence of the parties, only under exceptional circumstances, for reasons to be recorded in writing and not otherwise.
4.7 A registered marriage not only establishes the status of the spouse but also helps in succession disputes. In Sushma W/o Hemantrao Bodas v. Malti W/o Madhukar Machile22, the Bombay High Court on the basis of marriage certificate ruled in favour of a valid marriage. The court also remarked that registration of marriage facilitates proof of marriage in succession and other disputes.
4.8 These judgments indicate that the non-registration of marriage may lead to difficulties particularly when matrimonial disputes arise. The National Commission of Women recommended that women must insist on registering marriages to prevent cases of fraud.23 Compulsory registration of marriage seems a pragmatic solution in the light of these cases.