Thursday, October 30, 2008

Marriage registration: a few questions

After reading Tarunabh's piece today, I was wondering whether the Law Commission's latest report had anything to say on some of the actual problems faced by those seeking to register under the Special Marriage Act, which was the subject of a post on our blog once. If there is a basic problem in seeking information relating to religion of the bride and the bridegroom, the Law Commission could have addressed this issue. Instead, the Commission seems to be content with the existing law's obsession with inter-faith marriages. As the law stands, the same faith couple are also eligible to opt for the Act. Therefore, the purpose of seeking information about the religion of the couple is irrelevant. As the previous post on the blog reveals, the purpose of putting on the notice-board of the Registrar's office details about the civil marriage one month in advance of the marrige is self-defeating, and is likely to invite opposition from fundamentalist groups. The Law Commission report sadly is silent on this procedural aspect,(S.16) while its reservations on the use of "Special" in the title of the Act appear to be irrelevant, and I don't think omission of this word alone will attract secular couples to opt for it. I find that NCW's proposal wants the notice period to be reduced to 15 days, but should it be publicly displayed to invite objections? Besides, as the experience should suggest, the Act could lay down some qualifications for the Marriage Officer, requiring him to show some commitment to the philosophy underlying the Act.

The LCI's Report on compulsory registration of marriages and divorces recommends enactment of a law by Parliament to ensure uniformity. But I wondered why the Supreme Court while issuing directions to the Centre and the States in this regard in the case of Seema vs. Ashwani Kumar wanted the statute to be submitted to it for scrutiny. An example of judicial overreach?

1 comment:

Talha said...

I agree that mere removal of 'special' from the title of a legislation may not eliminate the mental block that people have in letting themselves to be covered by one law even in same faith marriage.

Inviting objections from people, when had a couple married in their respective religion would not have required calling for objection, is not only self-defeating (especially with regard to paternalism and patriarchy imbued in our governing systems) but also imposes an additional requirement. This additional requirement is not a precondition to marriage, not at least under Hindu and Muslim Laws of Marriage; then what could be the rationale for retaining it.

Also, I wonder what could be the repercussions of allowing a couple marrying under a 'special law' to choose what kind of property law would they like to be covered under, rather than imposing on them one regime which is available as a part of a package deal offered by the government. I understand that this could be seen as beginning of a uniform civil code, but it could be so that we might actually not be able to market the legislation to large number of couples (same faith) who want their rights arising out of relationship to be covered by the 'special law' but their would want their personal law of property to apply.