Report No. 212
The Special Marriage Act 1954
A. Old Special Marriage Act 1872
The first law of civil marriages in India was the Special Marriage Act 1872 enacted during the British rule on the recommendation of the first Law Commission of pre-independence era. It was an optional law initially made available only to those who did not profess any of the various faith traditions of India. The Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and Parsis were all outside its ambit. So, those belonging to any of these communities but wanting to marry under this Act had to renounce whatever religion they were following. The main purpose of the Act was to facilitate inter-religious marriages.
The Special Marriage Act 1872 contained no provision for dissolution or nullification of marriage. For these matrimonial remedies it only made the Indian Divorce Act 1869 applicable to the marriages governed by it.
In 1922 the Special Marriage Act 1872 was amended to make it available to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains for marrying within these four communities without renouncing their religion. As so amended, the Act remained in force until after independence.