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Madras High Court Declined to Invalidate Self-respect marriages

The High Court of Madras on Monday legalized Self Respect marriages or suyamariyathai . This is a type of marriage that makes marriage easier by deliberately avoiding compulsory rules of  like saptapadi, holy fire, mungalsutra etc. The hon’ble Madras Court declined to make such marriages illegal.  In 1968 an Act was passed that legalized self respect marriages. This type of marriage avoids saptapadi which is the taking of seven steps circling the holy fire in front of the prayers of Brahmin priest. The court therefore said that simple marriages solemnized in front of friends and other family members would be legal even though no exchange of garlands or rings.

The Court was dealing with a Public Interest Litigation initiated by A Asuvathaman, a lawyer who submitted before the Court that saptapadi is an important marital ceremony and the present amendment sought to change the entire procedure of marriage. He also argued that self respect marriages were not in parity with customary practices and ceremonies and hence the amendment effected to the present law is ultra vires the Constitution. The Court dismissed the PIL filed by the lawyer challenging the validity of Hindu Marriage Amendment Act made by the State. The bench consisted of Chief Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice T S Sivagnanam who pointed out that Hindu religion is pluralist and therefore many types of marriages were recognized that depends on custom and practices prevailing in different areas.

Section 7 A that was recently added legalizes special type of marriage between two Hindus. In the issues related with personal laws, the choice provided to the parties cannot be declared invalid on the ground of being unconstitutional. The High Court also quoted the judgment of Supreme Court and said that the amendment may be applied to any marriage that is solemnized in front of friends or relatives. Such ceremonies are enough to constitute valid marriage. The Court said that the litigation is not so important to presume that the statute is invalid. Hence the Court cannot strike down the amendment on such immaterial grounds.

Adv. Jewel Panicker