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Report No. 211

Laws on Registration of Marriage and Divorce - A Proposal for Consolidation and Reform

Chapter I


Since February 2006 the Supreme Court has in Seema v. Ashwani Kumar directed the State governments thrice to frame Rules for compulsory registration of all marriages irrespective of the religion and personal law of the parties. The States are now in the process of implementing these directives in various ways. Technically, rules having the effect of law can be framed by any government only under an authority delegated to it by proper legislation.

We have, therefore, to examine for this purpose provisions relating to marriage registration under various central and local laws in force in the country. As is well known, our country has a dual system of matrimonial laws. Various communities or groups of communities are ordinarily governed by their personal laws, codified or uncodified, while at the same time individuals can opt out of the community-specific family-law regime and voluntarily subject themselves to the national laws on civil marriages.

Provisions for registration of marriages, optional or mandatory, are found under most of these laws. Provisions are found in some but not all matrimonial laws for registration of divorces with State-appointed officials. There is more legal diversity in this respect than in regard to registration of marriages.

It is high time we took a second look at the entire gamut of Central and State laws on registration of marriages and divorces to assess if a uniform regime of marriage and divorce registration laws is feasible in the country at this stage of social development and, if not, what necessary legal reforms may be introduced for streamlining and improving upon the present system.

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