Marriage is something that is regulated by customary practices in India. Not many people will be comfortable with the idea of the state interfering with their personal affairs. This is one of the primary reasons why many couples, even today, find the exercise of applying for a marriage certificate, a futile exercise. However, contrary to popular belief, the marriage certificate is actually a very essential document for legal purposes for a married couple in India.
This blog seeks to counter that very misconception and tries to convince our readers of the importance of procuring a marriage certificate by getting their marriage registered.
- The first and foremost reason for why a marriage certificate is important is for the purposes of a divorce. Though as ironical it might seem, it is true. The existence of a marriage certificate is the most important document for divorce purposes in India. The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, provides for many grounds on which a married couple may apply for a divorce in India. However, whenever such an application is made, the first thing or document that the court is going to ask is that of a valid proof of the occurrence of the marriage between the couple. The most authentic, and more importantly, the prima facie’s proof of the marriage of the couple will be a marriage certificate.
- In earlier times, registering marriage was discretionary on the couple. As a result, only those couples who actually realized the importance of a marriage certificate took the effort to apply for a marriage certificate. The rest of the couples (which often constituted the majority of the married couples in India) often used to ignore their responsibility as dutiful citizens to get their marriage registered before a marriage registrar. This was also because there existed no central legislative enactment which made registration of marriages a mandatory and there existed varied State laws. While some States had made it mandatory for couples residing within their territorial jurisdiction to get their marriages registered, the other (and the majority of the rest) States did not impose any such mandate on the married couples within their territorial jurisdiction.
However, with the change of circumstances in India, it was the judiciary which took the initiative of making it mandatory for the couples to get their marriage registered. The Apex Court, that is, the Honourable Supreme Court of India, in a salutary judgement in 2006, made it mandatory for all couples to get the marriages registered. The said judgement is not unconstitutional, quite contrary to what some juristic scholars might argue, neither is the judgment an instance of judicial activism. The judgment is not in the nature of legislation, instead of a modification to the form of an existing legislature. Moreover, the Supreme Court has full authority to pass such judgments under Article 142 of the Constitution of India, in order to do complete justice. Also, the ruling of the Supreme Court becomes law of the land under Article 141 and must be followed all across India, without any derogation. Moreover, the States have an obligation to formulate appropriate laws in accordance with the basic intent of the Supreme Court.
Therefore registration of marriage is a mandatory requirement in all states of India, regardless of whether the State has a respective enactment to that effect or not. Any couple deviating from registering their marriage is actually going the Supreme Court of India, and is, in effect also breaking the law.
Notwithstanding the mandate of the Supreme Court, registration of a marriage is very important for a couple. Lack of a marriage certificate can cause several problems, especially during divorce proceedings as mentioned earlier.
- For instance, if the wife has filed a petition for divorce on the ground of cruelty or adultery (that is any of the fault grounds mentioned under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955), the presence of marriage certificate helps the woman, in that, it prevents the husband from denying the factum of marriage.
- Not only in divorce proceedings, but also in criminal matters where the wife is a victim of domestic violence and torture for the purposes of demands of dowry, the husbands and his family usually deny the couple being married ever, or they may claim that their marriage is not valid, since it was bigamous or what was not solemnized properly. All these documents of the husband can be rebutted by a single document, and that is the marriage certificate. The court will presume a valid marriage on seeing a marriage certificate and not allow the husband to claim any adverse grounds, thus, bringing him to book.
- Apart from these reasons, if the couple wishes to shift and settle abroad, the marriage certificate bearing the official seal of the Government of India, constitutes the only valid proof of marriage, for purposes related to passports, citizenship, and residence permits, etc. Unlike Indian courts, foreign authorities shall not admit photographs of the marriage ceremony or testimony of eyewitnesses as valid proof of marriage between the two.