The rights of a couple are bound to be protected by the judiciary; accordingly, marriages in India are registered under the personal laws such as The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955; Muslim Marriage Act, 1954; and The Special Marriage Act, 1954. The Act which contains the provision for civil marriage of people residing in India, and all Indian nationals in foreign countries, irrespective of religion or faith followed by either party is The Special Marriage Act, 1954 (“SMA”). Under the SMA two people from different faiths may marry. 

Requirements for a valid marriage

The SMA allows two individuals to solemnize their marriage by entering into a civil contract-like relationship. The SMA does not envisage any of the usual rituals. However, the consent of both parties to the marriage is required for solemnizing a marriage under the SMA.

Section 4 of the SMA imposes the following conditions for marriage:

  1. Neither of the parties should have a spouse living at the time of marriage
  2. Both the parties should be capable of giving consent and should be sane at the time of marriage.
  3. The parties shall not be within the prohibited degree of relations as prescribed under their law.
  4. The parties should be majors at the time of marriage, that is, the male must be at least 21 years and the female must be at least 18 years old.

Procedure for marriage under the SMA

Parties who want to marry under the SMA need to give a notice of marriage to the Marriage Officer in the area where any one of the couple has been living for the last 30 days immediately preceding the date. The Marriage Officer thereafter needs to publish the notice of marriage in his office. Subsequently, anyone who has any objection to such a marriage may raise an objection and if the Marriage Officer finds it reasonable, the objection may be sustained, and the marriage can be rejected. 

Changes in Succession to the Property after SMA

The matters related to property and succession to the property of couples married under SMA and children born from this wedlock will be governed by the Indian Succession Act. However, if the couple belong to any religion including Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, or Jain, then succession will be governed by the Hindu Succession Act. 

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