Nearly 50 years after Tamil Nadu government legalised “self-respect” marriages which are conducted without a priest the Madras High Court has upheld the amendment made in the year 1968 to simplify Hindu marriages.
Dismissing a PIL filed by A Asuvathaman, an advocate, against the amendment to the Hindu Marriage Act, the first bench comprising Chief Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice T S Sivagnanam in its recent order said “the Hindu religion by itself is pluralist in character and thus various forms of marriage have traditionally existed depending on the area and the custom prevalent therein.”
“Section 7-A (inserted by Tamil Nadu government in 1968) provides for a particular kind of marriage – “Suyamariyathai” (self-respect) marriages – among two Hindus. It has also stood the test of time now for nearly half a century”, the judges said.
“It was the state of Tamil Nadu which legalised the Suyamariyathai marriages, which simplified conducting of marriages without Brahmin priests and the couple going seven steps around the fire 47 years ago”, the judges said.
Asuvathaman contended that “Saptapadi” (seven steps going around the fire by the couple as part of marriage ritual) was an important ritual. The amendment had attempted to bring in the philosophy of a political movement”.
He submitted that “Suyamariuathai” weddings are not in conformity with the customary rites and ceremonies and hence the amendment providing for them should be declared unconstitutional.
It was DMK founder C N. Annadurai as Chief Minister in 1967 signed the first file legalising self-respect marriages. In the year 1968, it became an Act by introduction of section 7A amendment to Hindu Marriages Act.
Declining to declare the amendment as illegal and unconstitutional, the HC judges, quoting a Supreme Court judgement, in its order said that “the amendment inserted by Tamil Nadu applies to any marriage between two Hindus solemnised in the presence of relatives, friends or other persons.”
The judges said that “the main thrust of this provision is that the presence of a priest is not necessary for the performance of a valid marriage.”
“The parties can enter into a marriage in the presence of relatives or friends or other persons and each party to the marriage should declare in the language understood by the parties that each takes the other to be his wife or her husband”.
“The marriage would be completed by a simple ceremony requiring the parties to the marriage to garland each other or put a ring upon any finger of the other or tie a mangalsutra”, the bench said.
“Any of these ceremonies would be sufficient to complete a valid marriage. The petitioner had not placed any material to dislodge the presumption with regard to the validity of the statute. In the absence of such materials, the question of striking down the state amendment does not arise at all”, the bench said.