Report No. 212
B. New Special Marriage Act 1954
In 1954 the first Special Marriage Act of 1872 was repealed by and replaced with a new law bearing the same title. This is an optional law, an alternative to each of the various personal laws, available to all citizens in all those areas where it is in force. Religion of the parties to an intended marriage is immaterial under this Act; one can marry under its provisions both within and outside one's community.
The Special Marriage Act does not by itself or automatically apply to any marriage; it can be voluntarily opted for by the parties to an intended marriage in preference to their personal laws. It contains its own elaborate provisions on divorce, nullity and other matrimonial causes and, unlike the first Special Marriage Act of 1872, does not make the Divorce Act 1869 applicable to marriages governed by its provisions.
For the Hindus, Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs marrying within these four communities the Special Marriage Act 1954 is an alternative to the Hindu Marriage Act 1955. The Muslims marrying a Muslim have a choice between their uncodified personal law and the Special Marriage Act.
The Indian Christian Marriage Act 1872, however, says that all Christian marriages shall be solemnized under its own provisions [Section 4]. The issue of availability of the Special Marriage Act for a marriage both parties to which are Christians thus remains unresolved.