For Prelims: Special Marriage Act (SMA), 1954, Fundamental Rights, Article 21, Supreme Court.

For Mains: Special Marriage Act (SMA), 1954, Right to Privacy, Personal Liberties.

Why in News?

The Special Marriage Act (SMA), 1954's requirement that couples give notice of their intent to marry 30 days before their wedding, was recently dismissed by the Supreme Court (SC), which was challenging the provisions.

  • Because the petitioner had already celebrated her marriage under the SMA, the SC rejected the petition because she was no longer an aggrieved party.

What is the Petition's Purpose

  • As a violation of the right to privacy protected by Article 21 of the Constitution, the petition contested the constitutionality of some SMA provisions.
  • This is because these provisions call for couples to give notice 30 days before their wedding, inviting public objections.
  • Due to the absence of these requirements in personal laws, these provisions violate Article 14 on the right to equality and Article 15 on the prohibition of discrimination based on race, religion, caste, and sex.

Which Rules Are Contestable, and How Do They Put Couples at Risk?

  • Couples getting married under Section 5 of the SMA must notify the Marriage Officer 30 days before the wedding.
  • The petition calls for the repeal of the clauses in Sections 6 through 10.
  • A marriage notice must be entered into the marriage notice book, which the marriage officer keeps and which can be inspected by "any person desirous of inspecting the same," in accordance with Section 6.
  • The procedure for filing an objection is outlined in Section 7.
  • The inquiry process that must be followed after submission of an objection is laid out in Section 8.
  • According to the petition, these clauses make the citizens' private information available for public inspection.
  • Therefore, the right to be in charge of one's personal information and its accessibility is severely compromised by these provisions.
  • The state is interfering with a couple's right to make their own decisions about their marriage by making the couple's private information public.
  • Antisocial individuals have used these public announcements to harass engaged couples.
  • Marriage officials have occasionally gone above and beyond the law by sending such notices to the couple's parents, resulting in the girl's parents confining her to her home.

What exactly is the 1954 Special Marriage Act (SMA)?

  • The Hindu Marriage Act 1955, the Muslim Marriage Act 1954, or the Special Marriage Act 1954 are the applicable personal laws in India where marriages can be registered.
  • The judiciary ensures that both the husband and wife's rights are upheld.
  • Unaffected by the religion or belief practiced by either party, the Special Marriage Act 1954 is an Act of the Parliament of India that provides civil marriage for citizens of India and all Indian nationals abroad.
  • The Special Marriage Act, rather than personal laws, govern a marriage when it is solemnized in accordance with this law.

Features:

  • It permits a marriage union between two individuals with various religious backgrounds.
  • Establishes the process for marriages where one or both partners are not Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, or Sikhs, as well as for the solemnization and registration of those unions.
  • The fact that it is a secular Act contributes significantly to releasing people from the constraints of traditional marriage.

Provisions:

  • An early warning:
    • Couples are required by Section 5 of the Act to give the Marriage Officer a notice along with all necessary documentation 30 days prior to the intended wedding date.
  • Registration:
    • After submitting the documents for publishing the public notice inviting objections, both parties must be present.
    • After the SDM has decided on any objections that may have been submitted during that time, registration is completed 30 days after the date of the notice.
    • On registration day, parties and three witnesses must be present.

Source: TH