The Special Marriage Act, 1954

1. Short title, extent and commencement.—

(1)This Act may be called the Special Marriage Act, 1954.(2)It extends to the whole of India except the State of Jammu and Kashmir, and applies also to citizens of India domiciled in the territories to which this Act extends who arein the State of Jammu and Kashmir.(3)It shall come into force on such date2 as the Central Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, appoint.

2. Definitions.—

In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires,—***(b)“degrees of prohibited relationship”—a man and any of the persons mentioned in Part I of the First Schedule and a woman and any of the persons mentioned in Part II of the said Schedule are within the degrees of prohibited relationship;Explanation I.—Relationship includes,—(a)relationship by half or uterine blood as well as by full blood;(b)illegitimate blood relationship as well as legitimate;(c)relationship by adoption as well as by blood;and all terms of relationship in this Act shall be construed accordingly.Explanation II.—”Full blood” and “half blood”—two persons are said to be related to each other by full blood when they are descended from a common ancestor by the same wife and by half blood when they are descended from a common ancestor but by different wives.Explanation III.—”Uterine blood”—two persons are said to be related to each other by uterine blood when they are descended from a common ancestress but by different husbands.Explanation IV.—In Explanations II and III, “ancestor” includes the father and “ancestress” the mother;***(d)“district” in relation to a Marriage Officer, means the area for which he is appointed as such under sub-section (1) or sub-section (2) of section 3;(e)“district court” means, in any area for which there is a city civil court, that court, and in any other area, the principal civil court of original jurisdiction, and includes any other civil court which may be specified by the State Government by notification in the Official Gazette as having jurisdiction in respect of the matters dealt with in this Act;(f)“prescribed” means prescribed by rules made under this Act;(g)“State Government”, in relation to a Union Territory, means the administrator thereto.

3. Marriage Officers.—

(1)For the purposes of this Act, the State Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, appoint one or more Marriage Officers for the whole or any part of the State.(2)For the purposes of this Act, in its application to citizens of India domiciled in the territories to which this Act extends who are in the State of Jammu and Kashmir, the Central Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, specify such officers of the Central Government as it may think fit to be the Marriage Officers for the State or any part thereof.

4. Conditions relating to solemnization of special marriages.—

Notwithstanding anything contained in any other law for the time being in force relating to the solemnization of marriages, a marriage between any two persons may be solemnized under this Act, if at the time of the marriage the following conditions are fulfilled, namely:—(a)neither party has a spouse living;(b)neither party—(i)is incapable of giving a valid consent to it in consequence of unsoundness of mind; or(ii)though capable of giving a valid consent, has been suffering from mental disorder of such a kind or to such an extent as to be unfit for marriage and the procreation of children; or(iii)has been subject to recurrent attacks of insanity ***;(c)the male has completed the age of twenty-one years and the female the age of eighteen years;(d)the parties are not within the degrees of prohibited relationship:Provided that where a custom governing at least one of the parties permits of a marriage between them, such marriage may be solemnized, notwithstanding that they are within the degrees of prohibited relationship; and(e)where the marriage is solemnized in the State of Jammu and Kashmir, both parties are citizens of India domiciled in the territories to which this Act extends].Explanation.—In this section, “custom”, in relation to a person belonging to any tribe, community, group or family, means any rule which the State Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, specify in this behalf as applicable to members of that tribe, community, group or family:Provided that no such notification shall be issued in relation to the members of any tribe, community, group or family, unless the State Government is satisfied—(i)that such rule has been continuously and uniformly observed for a long time among those members;(ii)that such rule is certain and not unreasonable or opposed to public policy; and(iii)that such rule, if applicable only to a family, has not been discontinued by the family.

5. Notice of intended marriage.—

When a marriage is intended to be solemnized under this Act, the parties to the marriage shall give notice thereof in writing in the form specified in the Second Schedule to the Marriage Officer of the district in which 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.

6. Marriage Notice Book and publication.—

(1)The Marriage Officer shall keep all notices given under section 5 with the records of his office and shall also forthwith enter a true copy of every such notice in a book prescribed for that purpose, to be called the Marriage Notice Book, and such book shall be open for inspection at all reasonable times, without fee, by any person desirous of inspecting the same.(2)The Marriage Officer shall cause every such notice to be published by affixing a copy thereof to some conspicuous place in his office.(3)Where either of the parties to an intended marriage is not permanently residing within the local limits of the district of the Marriage Officer to whom the notice has been given under section 5, the Marriage Officer shall also cause a copy of such notice to be transmitted to the Marriage Officer of the district within whose limits such party is permanently residing, and that Marriage Officer shall thereupon cause a copy thereof to be affixed to some conspicuous place in his office.

7. Objection to marriage.—

(1)Any person may, before the expiration of thirty days from the date on which any such notice has been published under sub-section (2) of section 6, object to the marriage on the ground that it would contravene one or more of the conditions specified in section 4.(2)After the expiration of thirty days from the date on which notice of an intended marriage has been published under sub-section (2) of section 6, the marriage may be solemnized, unless it has been previously objected to under sub-section (1).(3)The nature of the objection shall be recorded in writing by the Marriage Officer in the Marriage Notice Book, be read over and explained if necessary, to the person making the objection and shall be signed by him or on his behalf.

8. Procedure on receipt of objection.—

(1)If an objection is made under section 7 to an intended marriage, the Marriage Officer shall not solemnize the marriage until he has inquired into the matter of the objection and is satisfied that it ought not to prevent the solemnization of the marriage or the objection is withdrawn by the person making it; but the Marriage Officer shall not take more than thirty days from the date of the objection for the purpose of inquiring into the matter of the objection and arriving at a decision.(2)If the Marriage Officer upholds the objection and refuses to solemnize the marriage, either party to the intended marriage may, within a period of thirty days from the date of such refusal, prefer an appeal to the district court within the local limits of whose jurisdiction the Marriage Officer has his office, and the decision of the district court on such appeal shall be final, and the Marriage Officer shall act in conformity with the decision of the court.

9. Powers of Marriage Officers in respect of inquiries.—

(1)For the purpose of any inquiry under section 8, the Marriage Officer shall have all the powers vested in a civil court under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (5 of 1908), when trying a suit in respect of the following matters, namely:—(a)summoning and enforcing the attendance of witnesses and examining them on oath;(b)discovery and inspection;(c)compelling the production of documents;(d)reception of evidence of affidavits; and(e)issuing commissions for the examination of witnesses;and any proceeding before the Marriage Officer shall be deemed to be a judicial proceeding within the meaning of section 193 of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860).Explanation.—For the purpose of enforcing the attendance of any person to give evidence, the local limits of the jurisdiction of the Marriage Officer shall be the local limits of his district.(2)If it appears to the Marriage Officer that the objection made to an intended marriage is not reasonable and has not been made in good faith he may impose on the person objecting costs by way of compensation not exceeding one thousand rupees and award the whole or any part thereof, to the parties to the intended marriage, and any order for costs so made may be executed in the same manner as a decree passed by the district court within the local limits of whose jurisdiction the Marriage Officer has his office.

10. Procedure on receipt of objection by Marriage Officer abroad.—

Where an objection is made under section 7 to a Marriage Officer in the State of Jammu and Kashmir in respect of an intended marriage in the State, and the Marriage Officer, after making such inquiry into the matter as he thinks fit, entertains a doubt in respect thereof, he shall not solemnize the marriage but shall transmit the record with such statement respecting the matter as he thinks fit to the Central Government, and the Central Government, after making such inquiry into the matter and after obtaining such advice as it thinks fit, shall give its decision thereon in writing to the Marriage Officer who shall act in conformity with the decision of the Central Government.

11. Declaration by parties and witnesses.—

Before the marriage is solemnized the parties and three witnesses shall, in the presence of the Marriage Officer, sign a declaration in the form specified in the Third Schedule to this Act, and the declaration shall be countersigned by the Marriage Officer.

12. Place and form of solemnization.—

(1)The marriage may be solemnized at the office of the Marriage Officer, or at such other place within a reasonable distance therefrom as the parties may desire, and upon such conditions and the payment of such additional fees as may be prescribed.(2)The marriage may be solemnized in any form which the parties may choose to adopt:Provided that it shall not be complete and binding on the parties unless each party says to the other in the presence of the Marriage Officer and the three witnesses and in any language understood by the parties,—“I, (A), take the (B), to be my lawful wife (or husband).”

13. Certificate of marriage.—

(1)When the marriage has been solemnized, the Marriage Officer shall enter a certificate thereof in the form specified in the Fourth Schedule in a book to be kept by him for that purpose and to be called the Marriage Certificate Book and such certificate shall be signed by the parties to the marriage and the three witnesses.(2)On a certificate being entered in the Marriage Certificate Book by the Marriage Officer, the Certificate shall be deemed to be conclusive evidence of the fact that a marriage under this Act has been solemnized and that all formalities respecting the signatures of witnesses have been complied with.

14. New notice when marriage not solemnized within three months.—

Whenever a marriage is not solemnized within three calendar months from the date on which notice thereof has been given to the Marriage Officer as required by section 5, or where an appeal has been filed under sub-section (2) of section 8, within three months from the date of the decision of the district court on such appeal or, where the record of a case has been transmitted to the Central Government under section 10, within three months from the date of decision of the Central Government, the notice and all other proceedings arising therefrom shall be deemed to have lapsed, and no Marriage Officer shall solemnize the marriage until a new notice has been given in the manner laid down in this Act.

15. Registration of marriages celebrated in other forms.—

Any marriage celebrated, whether before or after the commencement of this Act, other than a marriage solemnized under the Special Marriage Act, 1872 (III of 1872) or under this Act, may be registered under this Chapter by a Marriage Officer in the territories to which this Act extends if the following conditions are fulfilled, namely:—(a)a ceremony of marriage has been performed between the parties and they have been living together as husband and wife ever since;(b)neither party has at the time of registration more than one spouse living;(c)neither party is an idiot or a lunatic at the time of registration;(d)the parties have completed the age of twenty-one years at the time of registration;(e)the parties are not within the degrees of prohibited relationship:Provided that in the case of a marriage celebrated before the commencement of this Act, this condition shall be subject to any law, custom or usage having the force of law governing each of them which permits of a marriage between the two; and(f)the parties have been residing within the district of the Marriage Officer for a period of not less than thirty days immediately preceding the date on which the application is made to him for registration of the marriage.

16. Procedure for registration.—

Upon receipt of an application signed by both the parties to the marriage for the registration of their marriage under this Chapter the Marriage Officer shall give public notice thereof in such manner as may be prescribed and after allowing a period of thirty days for objections and after hearing any objection received within that period, shall, if satisfied that all the conditions mentioned in section 15 are fulfilled, enter a certificate of the marriage in the Marriage Certificate Book in the form specified in the Fifth Schedule, and such certificate shall be signed by the parties to the marriage and by three witnesses.

17. Appeals from orders under section 16.—

Any person aggrieved by any order of a Marriage Officer refusing to register a marriage under this Chapter may, within thirty days from the date of the order, appeal against that order to the district court within the local limits of whose jurisdiction the Marriage Officer has his office, and the decision of the district court on such appeal shall be final, and the Marriage Officer to whom the application was made shall act in conformity with such decision.

18. Effect of registration of marriage under this Chapter.—

Subject to the provisions contained in sub-section (2) of section 24, where a certificate of marriage has been finally entered in the Marriage Certificate Book under this Chapter, the marriage shall, as from the date of such entry, be deemed to be a marriage solemnized under this Act, and all children born after the date of the ceremony of marriage (whose names shall also be entered in the Marriage Certificate Book) shall in all respects be deemed to be and always to have been the legitimate children of their parents:Provided that nothing contained in this section shall be construed as conferring upon any such children any rights in or to the property of any person other than their parents in any case where, but for the passing of this Act, such children would have been incapable of possessing or acquiring any such rights by reason of their not being the legitimate children of their parents.

19. Effect of marriage on member of undivided family.—

The marriage solemnized under this Act of any member of an undivided family who professes the Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh or Jaina religions shall be deemed to effect his severance from such family.

20. Rights and disabilities not affected by Act.—

Subject to the provisions of section 19, any person whose marriage is solemnized under this Act shall have the same rights and shall be subject to the same disabilities in regard to the right of succession to any property as a person to whom the Caste Disabilities Removal Act, 1850 (21 of 1850), applies.

21. Succession to property of parties married under Act.—

Notwithstanding any restrictions contained in the Indian Succession Act, 1925 (39 of 1925), with respect to its application to members of certain communities, succession to the property of any person whose marriage is solemnized under this Act and to the property of the issue of such marriage shall be regulated by the provisions of the said Act and for the purposes of this Act shall have effect as if Chapter III of Part V (Special Rules for Parsi section that Intestate) had been omitted therefrom.

21A. Special provision in certain cases.—

Where the marriage is solemnized under this Act of any person who professes the Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh or Jaina religion with a person who professes the Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh or Jaina religion, section 19 and section 21 shall not apply and so much of section 20 as creates a disability shall also not apply.

22. Restitution of conjugal rights.—

When either the husband or the wife has, without reasonable excuse, withdrawn from the society of the other, the aggrieved party may apply by petition to the district court for restitution of conjugal rights, and the court, on being satisfied of the truth of the statements made in such petition, and that there is no legal ground why the application should not be granted, may decree restitution of conjugal rights accordingly.Explanation.—Where a question arises whether there has been reasonable excuse for withdrawal from the society, the burden of proving reasonable excuse shall be on the person who has withdrawn from the society.

23. Judicial separation.—

(1)A petition for judicial separation may be presented to the district court either by the husband or the wife,—(a)on any of the grounds specified in sub-section (1) and sub-section (1-A) of section 27 on which a petition for divorce might have been presented; or(b)on the ground of failure to comply with a decree for restitution of conjugal rights,and the court, on being satisfied of the truth of the statements made in such petition and that there is no legal ground why the application should not be granted, may decree judicial separation accordingly.(2)Where the court grants a decree for judicial separation, it shall be no longer obligatory for the petitioner to cohabit with the respondent, but the court may, on the application by petition of either party and on being satisfied of the truth of the statements made in such petition, rescind the decree if it considers it just and reasonable to do so.

24. Void marriages.—

(1)Any marriage solemnized under this Act shall be null and voidand may, on a petition presented by either party thereto against the other party, be so declared by a decree of nullity if—(i)any of the conditions specified in clauses (a), (b), (c) and (d) of section 4 has not been fulfilled; or(ii)the respondent was impotent at the time of the marriage and at the time of the institution of the suit.(2)Nothing contained in this section shall apply to any marriage deemed to be solemnized under this Act within the meaning of section 18, but the registration of any such marriage under Chapter III may be declared to be of no effect if the registration was in contravention of any of the conditions specified in clauses (a) to (e) of section 15:Provided that no such declaration shall be made in any case where an appeal has been preferred under section 17 and the decision of the district court has become final.

25. Voidable marriages.—

Any marriage solemnized under this Act shall be voidable and may be annulled by a decree of nullity if,—(i)the marriage has not been consummated owing to the wilful refusal of the respondent to consummate the marriage; or(ii)the respondent was at the time of the marriage pregnant by some person other than the petitioner; or(iii)the consent of either party to the marriage was obtained by coercion or fraud, as defined in the Indian Contract Act, 1872 (9 of 1872):Provided that, in the case specified in clause (ii), the court shall not grant a decree unless it is satisfied,—(a)that the petitioner was at the time of the marriage ignorant of the facts alleged;(b)that proceedings were instituted within a year from the date of the marriage; and(c)that marital intercourse with the consent of the petitioner has not taken place since the discovery by the petitioner of the existence of the grounds for a decree:Provided further that in the case specified in clause (iii), the court shall not grant a decree if,—(a)proceedings have not been instituted within one year after the coercion had ceased or, as the case may be, the fraud had been discovered; or(b)the petitioner has with his or her free consent lived with the other party to the marriage as husband and wife after the coercion had ceased or, as the case may be, the fraud had been discovered.

26. Legitimacy of children of void and voidable marriages.—

(1)Notwithstanding that a marriage is null and void under section 24, any child of such marriage who would have been legitimate if the marriage had been valid, shall be legitimate, whether such child is born before or after the commencement of the Marriage Laws (Amendment) Act, 1976 (68 of 1976), and whether or not a decree of nullity is granted in respect of that marriage under this Act and whether or not the marriage is held to be void otherwise than on a petition under this Act.(2)Where a decree of nullity is granted in respect of a voidable marriage under section 25, any child begotten or conceived before the decree is made, who would have been the legitimate child of the parties to the marriage if at the date of the decree it has been dissolved instead of being annulled, shall be deemed to be their legitimate child notwithstanding the decree of nullity.(3)Nothing contained in sub-section (1) or sub-section (2) shall be construed as conferring upon any child of a marriage which is null and void or which is annulled by a decree of nullity under section 25, any rights in or to the property of any person, other than the parents, in any case where, but for the passing of this Act, such child would have been incapable of possessing or acquiring any such rights by reason of not his being the legitimate child of his parents.

27. Divorce.—

(1)Subject to the provisions of this Act and to the rules made thereunder, a petition for divorce may be presented to the district court either by the husband or the wife on the ground that the respondent—(a)has, after the solemnization of the marriage, had voluntary sexual intercourse with any person other than his or her spouse; or(b)has deserted the petitioner for a continuous period of not less than two years immediately preceding the presentation of the petition; or(c)is undergoing a sentence of imprisonment for seven years or more for an offence as defined in the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860);***(d)has since the solemnization of the marriage treated the petitioner with cruelty; or(e)has been incurably of unsound mind, or has been suffering continuously or intermittently from mental disorder of such a kind and to such an extent that the petitioner cannot reasonably be expected to live with the respondent.Explanation.—In this clause,—(a)the expression “mental disorder” means mental illness, arrested or incomplete development of mind, psychopathic disorder or any other disorder or disability of mind and includes schizophrenia;(b)the expression “psychopathic disorder” means a persistent disorder or disability of mind (whether or not including sub-normality of intelligence) which results in abnormally aggressive or seriously irresponsible conduct on the part of the respondent, and whether or not it requires or is susceptible to medical treatment; or(f)has been suffering from venereal disease in a communicable form; or

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