The Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act of 1886 came into effect from the 8th of March in 1886. The act aims at providing for the intentional registration of certain births and deaths, for the purpose of instituting General Registry Offices so as to maintain registers of certain births, deaths and marriages and for some other definite functions. The legal provisions for mandatory and voluntary registration of births, deaths and marriages were present in various parts of the Indian Territory divided by various provincial rules and regulations such as Registration of Births and Deaths 1864 in Bengal, the registration of deaths 1865 in Bombay province etc. However it was only in the year 1886 that a central act, namely, the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act came into being all across the British India.

The act grants each State Government the power to create and (a) establish a general registry office for the collection and maintenance of certified copies of the registered births, deaths and marriages which the registry is empowered to register as per the act and (b) to appoint an officer to head the working of the office as the registrar. Section 8 of the act allows for any person who pays the prescribed fees to inspect the entries of the certified copies of the births and deaths register. The registrar is expected to keep track records of the marriages under the provisions of three acts namely: (a) The Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872; (b) Special Marriage Act, 1954; and (c) The Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act, 1936.

The certified copies of the entries of births, deaths and marriages have the legal value of conclusive substantive evidence of the particular birth, death or marriage as per section 9 of the act. The evidential value of the Act was highlighted by Justice S.S.Sinde Honorable Judge of the Bombay High Court who had observed that“ in order to give presumptive value to the entries made in the register for birth, the condition specified under sub-section(1) of section 22 of the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act has necessarily to be satisfied”.

Section 32 of the Act requires a person in possession of any records or registers in the matters of death, birth or marriage to transfer the same to the Registrar general of Births, Deaths and marriages. The Act also permits the state government to appoint as many persons as it thinks fit as the commissioners to examine all such registers and records. Such a commissioner shall thus have the duty to verify the authenticity of such records and registers.

The act goes hand in hand with the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child as the international convention also mandates for the registration of the birth of every child by the registry office in every locality including the details of the parents and to maintain a register book concerning the particulars of the children in the region.

The Supreme Court in the case of Government of Andhra Pradesh and Anr v. M.Hayagreev Sarma 1990(2) SCC 682, while confirming on the nature and validity of the Act had observed that “The Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act, 1886 is a central law which is referable to union list”.

The latest amendments brought to this act have almost created a vacuum to the main provisions of the act. The Repealing Act 1938 (1 if 1938), has made a major alteration to the Original act. The Act repeals Chapter IV of the original act, which related to the Amendment of Marriages Acts. Moreover section 37 of the original Act has been repealed by the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Amendment Act, 1911.The A.O. 1937 has also repealed Section 15 of the Act. However, the Law Commission in its 211th report (October, 2008) had enlightened the importance of the Act even after an excess of a 100 years since its conception. The Commission reported that even though numerous numbers of laws dealing with the same legal ground has been enacted in the country the relevancy of the act has not been lost and the act still remains in force. The eminence of the Act can further be evidenced with the help of section 29 of the Births and Deaths Registration Act of 1969, which substantiates that no rule or regulation of the said act is in derogation with the act of 1886.