Special Marriage Act

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    In News

    • Several interfaith couples have chosen to marry under a secular personal law through the Special Marriage Act, 1954.

    What is the Special Marriage Act, of 1954?

    • The Special Marriage Act of 1954 (SMA) provides an alternate route to religious laws for marriage It governs a civil marriage where the state sanctions the marriage rather than the religion.

    Need for this Act

    • Issues of personal law such as marriage, divorce, adoption are governed by religious laws that are codified. These laws, such as the Muslim Marriage Act, 1954, and the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, require either spouse to convert to the religion of the other before marriage.
    • SMA enables marriage between inter-faith or inter-caste couples without them giving up their religious identity or resorting to conversion.

    Concerns 

    • The provisions relating to notice, publication and objection have rendered it difficult for many people intending to solemnize inter-faith marriages.
    • In 2009, the Delhi High Court, underlining the right to privacy, struck down the practice of posting the notice of intended marriage under the SMA to the residential addresses of both parties.
    • In January 2021, the Allahabad High Court ruled that couples seeking to solemnize their marriage under the Special Marriage Act, 1954 can choose not to publish the mandatory 30-day notice of their intention to marry.

    Way ahead

    • The state needs to focus on promoting and protecting the rights of women within marriage and aim for a more equal, progressive law.

    Source: TH