1 Feb 2010

Christan cannot marry according to Hindu traditions

In a recently reported decision the Gujarat High Court has declared that a marriage between a Christan and Hindu according to Hindu rituals is a nullity and does not exist as such in the eyes of law. The High Court relied upon a 2005 decision of the Supreme Court wherein it was declared that a person of Christian faith cannot be legally married to a Hindu by following the Hindu rituals of marriage. 

The Supreme Court in its decision had inter alia observed as under;
6. There is no dispute that at the time of the purported marriage between the appellant and the respondent the appellant was a Christian and continues to be so whereas the respondent was a Hindu and continues to be so. There is also no dispute that the marriage was alleged to have been performed under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, and was also registered under Section 8 thereof. As against the above, a novel argument has been advanced on behalf of the appellant, the substance whereof is that the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 does not preclude a Hindu from marrying a person of some other faith.

18. Although, an attempt has been made to establish that the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, did not prohibit a valid Hindu marriage of a Hindu and another professing a different faith, we are unable to agree with such submission in view of the definite scheme of the 1955 Act.
20. As submitted by Mr. Rao, the Preamble itself indicates that the Act was enacted to codify the law relating to marriage amongst Hindus. Section 2 of the Act which deals with application of the Act, and has been reproduced hereinabove, reinforces the said proposition.
21. Section 5 of the Act thereafter also makes it clear that a marriage may be solemnized between any two Hindus if the conditions contained in the said Section were fulfilled. The usage of the expression `may' in the opening line of the Section, in our view, does not make the provision of Section 5 optional. On the other hand, it in positive terms, indicates that a marriage can be solemnized between two Hindus if the conditions indicated were fulfilled. In other words, in the event the conditions remain unfulfilled, a marriage between two Hindus could not be solemnized. The expression `may' used in the opening words of Section 5 is not directory, as has been sought to be argued, but mandatory and non-fulfilment thereof would not permit a marriage under the Act between two Hindus. Section 7 of the 1955 Act is to be read along with Section 5 in that a Hindu marriage, as understood under Section 5, could be solemnized according to the ceremonies indicated therein.

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