NATIONAL LEGAL RESEARCH DESK
In the affidavit filed on behalf of the National Commission for Women (in short the ’National Commission’) it has been indicated as follows:
“That the Commission is of the opinion that non-registration of marriages affects the most and hence has since its inception 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:
(a) prevention of child marriages and to ensure minimum age of marriage.
(b) prevention of marriages without the consent of the parties.
(c) Check illegal bigamy/polygamy
(d) Enabling married women to claim their right to live in the matrimonial house, maintenance, etc.
(e) Enabling widows to claim their inheritance rights and other benefits and privileges which they are entitled to after the death of their husband.
(f) Deterring men from deserting women after marriage.
(g) Deterring parents/guardians from selling daughters/young girls to any person including a foreigner, under the garb of marriage.”
As noted supra, except four statutes applicable to States of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka, Himachal Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh registration of marriages is not compulsory in any of the other States. As is evident from narration of facts though most of the States have framed rules regarding registration of marriages, registration of marriage is not compulsory in several States. If the record of marriage is kept, to a large extent, the dispute concerning solemnization of marriages between two persons is avoided. As rightly contended by the National Commission, in most cases non registration of marriages affects the women to a great measure. If the marriage is registered it also provides evidence of the marriage having taken place and would provide a rebuttable presumption of the marriage having taken place. Though, the registration itself cannot be a proof of valid marriage per se, and would not be the determinative factor regarding validity of a marriage, yet it has a great evidentiary value in the matters of custody of children, right of children born from the wedlock of the two persons whose marriage is registered and the age of parties to the marriage. That being so, it would be in the interest of the society if marriages are made compulsorily registrable. The legislative intent in enacting Section 8 of the Hindu Act is apparent from the use of the expression “for the purpose of facilitating the proof of Hindu Marriages”. 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.
Accordingly, we are 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.
Accordingly, we direct the States and the Central Government to take the following steps:
(i) The procedure for registration should be notified by respective States within three months from today. This can be done by amending the existing Rules, if any, or by framing new Rules. However, objections from members of the public shall be invited before bringing the said Rules into force. In this connection, due publicity shall be given by the States and the matter shall be kept open for objections for a period of one month from the date of advertisement inviting objections. On the expiry of the said period, the States shall issue appropriate notification bringing the Rules into force.
(ii) The officer appointed under the said Rules of the States shall be duly authorized to register the marriages. The age, marital status (unmarried, divorcee) shall be clearly stated. The consequence of non-registration of marriages or for filing false declaration shall also be provided for in the said Rules.
Needless to add that the object of the said Rules shall be to carry out the directions of this Court.
(iii) As and when the Central Government enacts a comprehensive statute, the same shall be placed before this Court for scrutiny.
(iv) Learned counsel for various States and Union Territories shall ensure that the directions given herein are carried out immediately.
The false registration of kidnapping charges on eloping couples is very well reflected in the NCRB data. Inspite of thesestates being lersser trafficking prone areas there has been a substantial increase of Kidnapping and abduction in these three states