Law Commission Recommends Compulsory Marriage Registration

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The Law Commission of India submitted its 270th Report titled ‘Compulsory Registration of Marriages’ to the Government.

The Law Commission of India is of the opinion that compulsory registration of marriages is a necessary reform and recommends the amendment of the Registration of Births and Deaths Act, 1969 suitably to include compulsory registration of marriage as well within its scope so that existing administrative machinery is able to carry out registration.

Further, for this purpose i.e. compulsory registration of marriages including births and deaths the Commission recommends adoption of complete automation process by using the process of paperless documentation so the greatest extent possible.

The Commission is in favour of retaining the provisions in the Registration of Birth and Death (Amendment) Bill, 2015 regarding (i) penalty of rupees five per day in case of non-registration of marriage without a reasonable cause; (ii) providing false information regarding the registration of marriage; and (iii) refusal to furnish certain information, such as name and address.

However, the penalty so imposed should be made with respect to specific date subject to a maximum of rupees one hundred keeping in view the prevailing conditions in our country.

Main Highlights of the Report:

This Report proposes to amend the Registration of Births and Deaths Act, 1969 to include the compulsory registration of marriages within its purview.

Law once enacted, it would enable better implementation of many other civil as well as criminal laws. It would provide citizens, not new rights but better enforcement of existing rights under various family laws that grant and provide to protect many rights of spouses within a marriage.

Registration of a marriage under any of the prevailing marriage Acts e.g. the Indian Christian Marriages Act. 1872; the Kazis Act, 1880; the Anand Marriage Act, 1909; the Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act, 1936; the Sharia Application Act, 1937; Special Marriage Act, 1954; Hindu Marriage Act, 1955; any other custom or personal law relating to marriage will be acceptable and a separate standalone legislation may not be required so long as an amendment is made to the Births, Deaths Registration Act to include Marriages.

Registration of a marriage under any of the prevailing marriage Acts, or any other custom or personal law relating to marriage will be acceptable, and a separate standalone legislation may not be required so long as an amendment is made to the Births and Deaths Registration Act to include Marriages as well.

This Bill would supplement the domain of family laws that already exist and is not aimed at removing, abolishing or amending specific religious/ cultural practices and laws that are accepted under personal laws prevailing in India. The subject of personal laws is wide and complex, and this report is aimed at creating simply a procedural change to make the registration of marriages compulsory.

Thus while Bill does not aim at eliminating the diversity of personal laws, or regional differences seeking merely the registration of marriages regardless of the law under which the marriages are recognized or solemnized, it recommends that these various overlapping and contradicting legislations be borne in mind while framing the rules of registration.

The Registrar who is responsible for the registration of births and deaths shall be responsible for the registration of marriages as well. The Amendment Bill should provide that if the Birth or Marriage or Death is not registered within the specified time limit, then the Registrar shall on the payment of a late fee, register the death or birth (a) within a period of 30 days (b) within one year, only with the written permission of the prescribed authority; and (c) after one year, only on an order of a First Class Magistrate. It provides for a penalty of Rs.5 per day in case of delay in registration of ‘marriage without a reasonable cause’.

Village Panchayats, local civil bodies and municipalities should create awareness so as to get register all marriages with the local administration compulsorily. Further, producing of marriage certificate should be made mandatory for writing the name of spouse in any application; for getting any benefit on behalf of husband or wife; for making application to government departments; for getting benefits of any welfare schemes like agricultural loan, education loan etc.

Some States already provide web portals for online registration of marriages, but it would be desirable to have a centralized national portal for maintenance of records. The Commission has opined that availability of forms and documents in vernacular languages must be ensured to make the portal easily accessible to all citizens.

Since, entry 5 of the Concurrent List of the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution, contains most matters of family law, allowing for the States to legislate on these matters, the recommended Bill would only serve as a guiding principle which would apply across the country but specific amendments to the scheme can be added by the States bearing in mind that there may be more effective ways for such registration of marriages depending on the context and particularities of different States. These differences may merely be procedural and not substantive. The above proposals shall be in addition to the other existing laws and will not affect any rights recognised under any other law or custom.

Marriage Registration: Indian Legislative Framework

Pursuant to the directions/ observations of the Supreme Court in Seema v. Ashwani Kumar many states have passed law or framed rules for compulsory registration of marriages, i.e

(i) The Punjab Compulsory Registration of Marriages Act, 2012 provides for compulsory registration of marriages solemnised within the State under any law governing the parties irrespective of their religion, caste, creed or nationality.

(ii) The Delhi (Compulsory Registration of Marriage) Order, 2014 extends to all marriages solemnised in Delhi irrespective of cast creed and religion professed by the parties to the marriage.

(iii) The Haryana Compulsory Registration of Marriages Act 2008 provides for compulsory registration of marriages solemnised within the State, irrespective of caste, religion and creed and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.

(iv) The Meghalaya Compulsory Registration of Marriages Act 2012 provides for compulsory registration of marriages solemnised in the State of Meghalaya and for matters connected therewith; amended by the Meghalaya Compulsory Registration of Marriages (Amendment) Act, 2015.

(v) The Uttarakhand Compulsory Registration of Marriage Act, 2010 provides for the compulsory registration of all marriages solemnised in the State of Uttarakhand so as to prevent child marriages, check bigamy or polygamy, help women to exercise their rights of maintenance from husband and custody of children, enable widows to claim inheritance and to serve as deterrent to husbands deserting their wives and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.

(vi) The Tamil Nadu Registration of Marriages Act, 2009. “Marriage” includes all marriages solemnised by persons belonging to any caste or religion under any law for the time being in force, or as per any custom or usage in any form or manner and also includes remarriage. As per Section 3 of the Act Marriages to be compulsorily registered. It reads:

Marriages to be compulsorily registered.— Every marriage performed on and from the date of commencement of this Act shall be registered under this Act notwithstanding the fact that the said marriage had been entered in the marriage registers governed by any other personal laws of the parties to the marriage or custom or usage or tradition).

(v) Similarly, Rajasthan too has enacted the Rajasthan Compulsory Registration of Marriages Act, 2009, wherein it is provided for Compulsory Registration of Marriages of citizens of India solemnised in the State.

(vi) The Mizoram Compulsory Registration of Marriages Act, 2007 provides for compulsory registration of marriages solemnised in the State of Mizoram, “marriage” includes all the marriages contracted by persons belonging to any caste, tribe or religion, and the marriages contracted as per any custom, practice or tradition, and also includes re-marriages.

(vii) Further there are the Karnataka Marriages (Registration and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1976, (3) The Himachal Pradesh Registration of Marriages Act, 1996, and (4) The Andhra Pradesh Compulsory Registration of Marriages Act, 2002.

(viii) In Odisha, the registration of marriages were regulated under various Acts and Rules; namely, (i) the Orissa Mohammedan Marriages and Divorces Registration Act, 1949 and Rules, 1976 for Muslim Community (Section-8 and Rule 2A) (ii) the Orissa Hindu Marriage Registration Rules, 1960 (Rules-4, 4A and 4B) (iii) the Indian Christian Marriage Act,1872 (Sections- 6 and 9) and (iv) the Special Marriage Act, 1954 (Section-3).

Pursuant to the judgement of the Hon‟ble Supreme Court in Seema v. Ashwani Kumar13, the Odisha Hindu Marriage Registration Rules, 1960 and the Odisha Mohammedan Marriages & Divorces Registration Rules, 1976 were amended in the year 2006 and registration of marriages of Hindu and Muslim religions are compulsory since then.

(ix) In Goa, the process of registration of marriage with the State Government is initiated before its solemnisation under religious rites and ceremonies of the parties to the marriage. The position of registration of marriage in the State of Goa is progressive in view of the fact that it is governed under Civil Registration Code of 1912 which is mostly based on the Portuguese Code of 1867. The said Act is applicable to Daman & Diu as well. Even marriage of Roman Catholics solemnised under canonical law need to be routed through the Civil Registration Office. Marriage of Christian community could only to be solemnised by the Priest of the Church when No Objection Certificate from the Sub Registrar Office is produced before him. Article 1 of the Code of 1912 provides for compulsory registration to fix authenticity and juridical individuality of each citizen and to serve as basis of his civil rights. Article 4 thereof provides that no other mode of proof can be accepted. Article 6, thereof, provides that if lack of registration is attributable to an interested party, for proof, such party has to resort to judicial proceedings.

(x) In Puducherry, the Pondicherry Hindu Marriage (Registration) Rules, 1969 have come into force w.e.f. 7th April, 1969. All Sub-Registrars of Puducherry have been appointed under Section 6 of the Indian Registration Act, 1908 as Marriage Registrars for the purposes of registering marriages. In the Union territory of Puducherry, marriages of various communities are registered with the Local Bodies Authorities under Municipal/Commune Panchayat limits under the provisions of the Registration of Marriages by “Decret” dated 24.04.1880 or under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 or the Special Marriage Act, 1954 by the Sub-Registrars of the Registration Department.14 Previously, the French Civil Code was used for registration of Births, Deaths and Marriages in the Local Bodies of the Union territory of Puducherry. The Registration of Births and Deaths Act, 1969 was implemented in March 1979 for registration of births and deaths. However, the Registration of Marriages is still under the said French Civil Code.

(xi) In Jammu and Kashmir, as regards Muslims, Section 3 of the Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Marriages Registration Act, 1981 provides that marriage contracted between Muslims after the commencement of the Act shall be registered in the manner provided therein within 30 days from the date of conclusion of Nikah ceremony. However, the Act has not been enforced.

(xii) So far as the Union territory of Chandigarh is concerned, the Hindu Marriage Registration Rules, 1966 have been framed.

(xiii) The Tripura Recording of Marriage Act, 2003 regulates compulsory recording of marriage solemnised under the Act updated by the Tripura Recording of Marriage (Amendment) Act, 2013.

(xiv) Earlier there were other laws that existed for the purpose of registration of marriages. They are: (1) The Bombay Registration of Marriages Act, 1953, In five States provisions had been made for voluntary registration of Muslim marriages. These are Assam, Bihar, West Bengal, Orissa and Meghalaya. The Assam Moslem Marriages and Divorce Registration Act, 1935; the Orissa Muhammadan Marriages and Divorce Registration Act, 1949; and the Bengal Mohammedan Marriages and Divorce Registration Act, 1876 are the relevant statutes. Many of these have been repealed for replaced by new legal regimes.

Compulsory Registration of Marriages Rules:

(i) Bihar Marriage Registration Rules, 2006 are with respect to the compulsory registration of marriages. The same are applicable to the marriages of all citizens of India solemnised in the State;

(ii) Madhya Pradesh Compulsory Marriage Registration Rules, 2008 for all marriages solemnised in the State.

(iii) The Kerala Registration of Marriages (Common) Rules, 2008 provides that all Marriages solemnised in the State shall compulsorily be registered irrespective of religion of the parties. The Rules are now being implemented through the Director of Panchayat, who is Chief Registrar of marriage.

(iv) Compulsory Marriage Registration Rules, Chhattisgarh, 2006 makes marriage registration compulsory for all, irrespective of community or religion.

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