Insights into Editorial: In the database: on registration of marriages

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Insights into Editorial: In the database: on registration of marriages


Context:

In October, the Supreme Court held that that sexual intercourse by a man with his wife who is below 18 years of age is rape. The judgment was interpreted as a strong warning against child marriage. Similarly, in July 2017, the Law Commission of India suggested amendments in the Registration of Births and Deaths Act, 1969 to make registration of marriages compulsory, like births and deaths, as an effective antidote to social evils like child marriage, bigamy and gender violence.

Registration of Marriage in India

A marriage which has already been solemnised can be registered either under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 or under the Special Marriage Act, 1954.

  • The Hindu Marriage Act is applicable in cases where both husband and wife are Hindus, Buddhists, Jains or Sikhs or where they have converted into any of these religions.
  • Where either of the husband or wife or both are not Hindus, Buddhists, Jains or Sikhs, the marriage is registered under The Special Marriage Act, 1954.

Need to make the registration of marriages compulsory

The Law Commission of India has communicated to the government the need for a new law to make the registration of marriages compulsory.

  • There is no central Act making the registration of marriages compulsory but individual states such as Bengal and Punjab have laws for compulsory recording.
  • The commission said many countries had made the registration of marriages compulsory and there was no reason why India should not do so too.

The intervention was based on a request from the Department of Legal Affairs to end the continued prevalence of practices such as child marriages, bigamy and gender violence in Indian society.

Bearing in mind the diversity of family laws, customs and traditions, it has endeavoured to create an all-India framework under which all marriages can be registered regardless of the differences in the procedure of solemnisation.

The Commission has found that the act of compulsory registration of marriage would be acceptable across the religious spectrum and that marriages can be registered under any of the prevailing marriage acts.

Law commission recommendations

To make the registration of marriages mandatory, the commission has suggested an amendment to the Registration of Births and Deaths Act, 1969.

  • The Commission suggested that the Registrar who is responsible for the registration of births and deaths be responsible for the registration of marriages as well.
  • The Amendment Bill should provide a provision of late fee in case if the birth or marriage or death is not registered within the specified time limit.
  • In a marriage solemnised abroad, and in which one of the parties Indian, the Registrar is shall verify it was conducted as per the laws of that country and the marriage satisfies conditions laid down in Section 4 of the Foreign Marriage Act, 1969.
  • The Commission called for village panchayats, local civil bodies and municipalities to create awareness about compulsory registration of marriages
  • Law commission also recommended production of a marriage certificate should be made mandatory

            – for anyone applying for any benefit on behalf of the spouse;

            – for making application to government departments;

            – for getting benefits of any welfare schemes like agricultural and education loans

Significance of Marriage registration

Non-registration of marriage affects women and children. Women are the prominent victims of bigamous relationships and property disputes and face immense difficulty in establishing their marriage.

  • It will be beneficial for the women from unnecessary harassment in matrimonial and maintenance cases.
  • It will also provide 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 the parties to the marriage. 
  • A unified database that consists of birth, marriage and death records would allow easy tracing of records. If registration of marriage is linked to the unique identification number (UID), it would be possible to achieve universal tracing of records

Conclusion

It has become necessary to enact a law to safeguard the future of married/ divorcees and to check child marriage trafficking of young girls under the garb of marriage.

In India, because of its size, population and the sheer diversity of customary forms of marriages, it has often been canvassed that an endeavour to register all marriages would be difficult. However, the difficulty in implementation does not overshadow the merits of such an enactment.