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Report No. 81

Opinions of Sudder courts.- The Indian Law Commissioners, by their letter dated 30th June, 1837, had sought1 the opinions of the Sudder courts of Calcutta, Allahabad, Madras and Bombay as to whether there would be any objections to a law which would authorise the re-marriage of Hindu widows. In reply, the Calcutta Sudder Court (consisting of two judges, one temporary judge, two official judges and one officiating temporary judge), had no hesitation in stating it as its unqualified opinion that a law of the nature contemplated could not be passed without a direct and open violation of the pledged faith of the Government.

The court felt that the Hindus did not regard marriage as a mere civil contract, and in all its stages from the betrothment in infancy to its final consummation, the ceremonies consisted of a series of observances altogether religious; and it was distinctly clear by their shastras, and universally believed by them, that the reĀ¬marriage of a widow involved guilt and disgrace on earth and exclusion from heaven. The court referred to Mr. Colebrook's Digest of the Hindu law in support of its views and regretted that what was so desirable should be so difficult of attainment.

The Sudder Diwani Adawlut of North-west Provinces (consisting of four judges) also opposed the proposed measure on similar grounds and added that it was likely to be misunderstood and perverted and might give to a very great and general dissatisfaction without being attended with any counter-balancing or commensurate advantage. The judges of the Madras Sudder and Faujdaree courts followed suit, on the ground that the Hindus of the regenerate classes would look upon such a measure as an attempt to confound them with the inferior and outcaste tribes, (who admitted of second marriages by widows).

They warned that such an Act would not only prove a dead letter, but would also unite the whole of the superior classes in maintaining with increased bigotry the established custom against which the proposed measure would be levelled and thus strengthen their jealousy in keeping up, unimpaired, the distinctions which separated them from the lower orders.

1. Indian Law Commissioners letter dated 30th June, 1837.

Hindu Widows Re-marriage Act, 1856 Back

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