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Special Marriage Act 1954

Topics Covered: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

Special Marriage Act, 1954:

Why in News?

Plea in Supreme Court over certain Special Marriage Act provisions.

  • The petition seeks the court’s directions to strike down certain Sections.

 What are the controversial provisions? Why they should be struck down?

Section 5 of the (Act) requires that a notice of intended marriage to be given by the parties to the marriage to the Marriage Officer of the district where at least one of the parties to the marriage has resided for a period of not less than thirty days immediately preceding the date on which such notice is given.

Section 6 mandates that all such notices received shall be entered in the marriage notice book and the Marriage Officer shall publish a notice by affixing a copy thereof to some conspicuous place in his office,

Sections6(2) and 6(3): The provisions under the Act require parties to an intended marriage to publish their private details for public scrutiny 30 days prior to the intended marriage.

  • This provision violates the right to privacy of the parties. The right to privacy is held to be an aspect of the right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution.
  • The requirement is also in violation of right to equality under Article 14 of the Constitution since no other laws prescribe such a requirement.

What is Special Marriage Act of 1954?

The SMA is a law which allows solemnization of marriages without going through any religious customs or rituals.

People from different castes or religions or states get married under SMA in which marriage is solemnized by way of registration.

  • The prime purpose of the Act was to address Inter-religious marriages and to establish marriage as a secular institution bereft of all religious formalities, which required registration alone.

Procedure mentioned:

The SMA prescribes an elaborate procedure to get the marriage registered.

  1. One of the parties to the marriage has to give a notice of the intended marriage to the marriage officer of the district where at least one of the parties to the marriage has resided for at least 30 days immediately prior to the date on which such notice is given.
  2. Such notice is then entered in the marriage notice book and the marriage officer publishes a notice of marriage at some conspicuous place in his office.
  3. The notice of marriage published by the marriage officer includes details of the parties like names, date of birth, age, occupation, parents’ names and details, address, pin code, identity information, phone number etc.
  4. Anybody can then raise objections to the marriage on various grounds provided under the Act. If no objection is raised within the 30 day period, then marriage can be solemnized. If objections are raised, then the marriage officer has to inquire into the objections after which he will decide whether or not to solemnize the marriage.


Prelims Link:

  1. Objectives of the Special Marriage Act.
  2. Key provisions- Sections 5 and 6.
  3. Key requirements under the Act for the registration of marriage.
  4. Details published by the marriage officer.
  5. Overview of Articles 14 and 21 of the constitution.

Mains Link:

What are the controversial provisions in the Special Marriage Act of 1954? Why the law needs a review? Discuss.

Sources: the Hindu.