SC Order on ‘Self Respect’ Marriages

In a recent development on August 28, the Supreme Court of India made significant observations regarding the validity of ‘self respect’ marriages, also known as suyamariyathai marriages. This ruling addresses the legal recognition and procedures surrounding these unique unions.

This topic of “SC Order on ‘Self Respect’ Marriages” is important from the perspective of the UPSC IAS Examination, which falls under General Studies Portion.

Understanding ‘Self Respect’ Marriages

Defining Self Respect Marriages

  • Alternate Name: These marriages are often referred to as suyamariyathai marriages.
  • Ceremony: The solemnization of these unions involves the presence of relatives, friends, or other individuals.
  • Declaration: The parties involved declare each other as spouses in a language understood by them.
  • Symbolism: The ceremony includes the exchange of garlands, rings, or thali, symbolizing their commitment.

Legal Framework

  • Registration Requirement: These marriages are required to be registered as per the law.
  • Hindu Marriage Act, 1955: This act includes Section 7(A), which provides legal recognition for such marriages.
  • Tamil Nadu Amendment Act, 1967: This amendment inserted Section 7-A into the Hindu Marriage Act, applicable exclusively in Tamil Nadu.
  • Rationale Behind the Amendment: The amendment aimed to simplify weddings, eliminate the necessity for mandatory Brahmin priests and rituals like the holy fire and saptapadi, and allow declarations in the presence of friends, family, or others, thus avoiding the need for priests and elaborate rituals.

Highlights of the Recent Supreme Court Order

  • The Supreme Court allowed a petition that challenged a Madras High Court order dated May 5, which imposed disciplinary actions against advocates solemnizing such marriages and issuing marriage certificates to consenting adults.
  • The case, titled “Ilavarasan v. Superintendent of Police,” reached the Supreme Court with Justices Ravindra Bhat and Aravind Kumar presiding.
  • The appeal was filed by Ilavarasan against the Madras High Court’s order that rejected his habeas corpus petition, urging him to present his wife before the court.

Supreme Court’s Position

  • The Supreme Court set aside a 2014 Madras High Court ruling that deemed marriages performed by advocates as invalid and that self-respect marriages cannot be solemnized in secrecy.
  • The petitioner, Ilavarasan, claimed that he had performed suyamariyathai with his wife, who was under her parents’ illegal custody.
  • The Madras High Court refused to accept the self-respect marriage certificate issued by an advocate and dismissed Ilavarasan’s habeas corpus plea.
  • The Supreme Court overruled the 2014 Madras High Court ruling, emphasizing that self-respect marriages can be solemnized without secrecy.

Legal Precedents and Reliance

  • The Supreme Court relied on a 2001 ruling, “Nagalingam v. Sivagami,” which clarified that there is no blanket ban on advocates solemnizing marriages under Section 7(A) of the Hindu Marriage Act, considering the Tamil Nadu State Amendment Act.
  • The main thrust of the provision is that a priest is not necessary for a valid marriage. The presence of relatives, friends, or others, along with the parties’ declaration of each other as spouses, completes the ceremony. Symbolic rituals such as garland and ring exchanges or thali tying suffice.

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