Supreme Court says Hindu marriage invalid unless performed with ceremonies in proper form

The Supreme Court has termed a Hindu marriage as a ‘samskara’ or sacrament, which cannot be recognised under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 unless performed with ceremonies in the proper form.

The order was passed recently by the Bench of Justice BV Nagarathna and Justice Augustine George Masih.

The Apex Court urged young men and women to 'think deeply' about the institution of marriage even before entering it and as to how sacred the said institution was, in the Indian society.

It said unless and until the marriage was performed with appropriate ceremonies and in due form, it cannot be said to be ‘solemnised’ as per Section 7(1) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.

It said a Hindu marriage was a sacrament, which has to be accorded its status as an institution of great value in the Indian society.

It further said that a (Hindu) marriage was not an event for ‘song & dance’ and ‘wining & dining’ or an occasion to demand and exchange dowry & gifts by undue pressure, leading to possible initiation of criminal proceedings thereafter.

The top court of the country observed that a marriage was not a commercial transaction. It was a solemn foundational event celebrated to establish a relationship between a man and a woman who acquired the status of a husband and wife for an evolving family in future, which was a basic unit of the Indian society.

A Hindu marriage facilitated procreation, consolidated the unit of family, and solidified the spirit of fraternity within various communities. A marriage was after all sacred, for it provided a lifelong, dignity-affirming, equal, consensual, and healthy union of two individuals.

It was considered to be an event that conferred salvation on an individual, especially when the rites and ceremonies were conducted.

It pointed out that sub-section (2) of Section 7 further stated that where such rites and ceremonies included saptapadi, the taking of seven steps by the bridegroom and the bride jointly before the sacred fire, the marriage became complete and binding when the seventh step was taken.

The requisite ceremonies for the solemnisation of a Hindu marriage must be in accordance with the applicable customs or usage and where saptapadi has been adopted, the marriage would become complete and binding when the seventh step was taken, it added.

The Apex Court passed the order on a petition by a woman seeking the transfer of a divorce petition from a court in Muzaffarpur, Bihar to a court in Ranchi, Jharkhand.

During the pendency of the petition, the petitioner and her former partner, both trained commercial pilots, decided to resolve the dispute by filing a joint application under Article 142 of the Constitution of India.