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Report No. 18

Converts' Marriage Dissolution Act, 1866

1. Need for revision.-

During the examination of the law relating to marriage and divorce among Christians in India, a question which figured prominently in the evidence was as to the effect of conversion of a person to Christianity on a marriage previously contracted by him. The Converts' Marriage Dissolution Act, 1866, provides for the dissolution of such a marriage under certain conditions. Discussing this Act, we observed in our report on the law relating to Marriage and Divorce amongst Christians1 as follows:-

"But this Act applies only if the parties to the marriage are not Muslims, Parsis, or Jews; and the criticism levelled against it, that it is discriminative in character, in that (1) it applies only to cases of conversion from Hinduism, and (2) it gives relief only in cases of conversion to Christianity, is well-founded. In view of this, we are considering whether we should not recommend the enactment of a law, which will be generally applicable to all cases of conversion from one religion to another religion. The question of the repeal of the Converts' Marriage Dissolution Act, 1866, can appropriately be taken up then for consideration."

Having, since, fully considered the matter, we are of opinion that there is need for legislation on the lines of that Act, because if (i) a marriage is contracted under a law which prohibits polygamy - and the present law governing all the communities in India excepting Muslims does that, - and (ii) conversion does not dissolve the marriage already contracted in accordance with a monogamous faith - and that is well-settled law - then hardship is bound to be caused if no provision is made for dissolution of the marriage. It is obviously with a view to granting redress against this, that the Converts' Marriage Dissolution Act, 1866, was enacted; but that enactment gives relief only when the conversion is from Hinduism to Christianity, and does not go far enough. We, therefore, feel that that Act should be repealed and replaced by a law which will be uniformly applicable to all conversions and confer on a convert a right to have the marriage contracted before conversion dissolved on such terms as might be considered just and proper. That is the scope of this Report.

1. 15th Report, para. 63.

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