Section 8 of the Hindu Marriage Act provides for registration of Hindu Marriages for the purpose of facilitating the proof of such marriages. Under section 8, the State Government is empowered to make rules providing that the parties to any such marriage may have the particulars relating to their marriage entered in such manner and subject to such conditions as may be prescribed in a Hindu Marriage Register kept for the purpose. Thus, the section contemplates registration only of marriages, which had already taken place.1)
The Hindu Marriage Register shall, at all reasonable times, be open for inspection. Such register shall be admissible as evidence of the statements contained therein. The Registrar on payment of such fee as prescribed shall give certified extracts from the register.
The registration is not the sole proof of marriage in order to become a valid marriage. Section 7 of the Hindi Marriage Act provides that the validity of a marriage will depend on observance of ‘customary rites and ceremonies’.
The ceremonies essential for a valid marriage prevailing in the community must be performed. If there is no valid marriage, there cannot be any valid registration under the provisions of section 8 of the Hindu Marriage Act.2) the Madras High Court held that, when the factum of marriage is disputed, evidence regarding performance of marriage according to Hindu rites must be brought on record to show that there had been a valid marriage. The court also held that registration is not the sole proof of marriage in order to become a valid marriage.
In Leelamma vs Radhakrishnan,3) the court held that when the factum of marriage is disputed, even registration of the marriage either under the Hindu Marriage Act or under the Special Marriage Act, cannot constitute proof of a valid marriage. The court further held that a valid marriage could be established only by proving the essentials of marriage according to the customary rites of the parties. It has also been held that declaration in ration card and other documents showing the parties as husband and wife is of no consequence in the absence of the proof as indicated above. The mere fact that marriage has been registered would not convert an invalid marriage into valid one.
In the case of an invalid marriage, which has been registered, a suit for declaration of marriage as invalid is maintainable.4)
Section 8 has made the registration of marriage optional. Section 8 (5) specifically provides that the validity of any Hindu Marriage shall not be affected by the failure to register. At the time of enactment of the Hindu Marriage Act, there was an opportunity for the Legislature to provide for compulsory registration, but it failed to do so. The Act does not lay down the procedure for solemnizing marriages, nor has made registration of marriages compulsory.5)
As a natural consequence, the effect of non-registration would be that the presumption, which is available from registration of marriages, would be denied to a person whose marriage is not registered. With these observations, Hon’ble Supreme Court, in the instant case, was of the view that marriages of all persons who are citizens of India belonging to various religions should be made compulsorily registrable in their respective States, where the marriage is solemnized.6)
The National Commission for Women has repeatedly urged that registration of marriages ought to be made compulsory, not only so that such bigamous marriages can be avoided and the denial of status for such women and children can be avoided, but also, child marriages will also cease. However, in spite of several representations, this injustice has not been rectified. One hopes that the Legislature will wake up to its duty and see that under the Hindu Marriage Act, registration is made compulsory. 7)
The National Commission for Women is of the opinion that non-registration of marriages affects the most. Hence, it has supported the proposal for legislation on compulsory registration of marriages. Such a law would be of critical importance to various women related issues such as—
Smt. Seema vs Ashwani Kumar8)
Adv. Sunil Sharma is a writer for about 25 years and has authored more than 40 books on various subjects including Jurisprudence, Hindu Law and Environmental Laws.