Sappadi before burning agarbattis

Sec & 0f Hindu Marriage Act 1955 defines the ceremonies required for solemnizing the Hindu marriage. It state that marriage may be solemnized in accordance with the customary rites of either of the party. Where ceremonies include Saptpadi i.e taking seven steps by bridegroom and bride jointly around the sacred fire the marriage becomes complete and binding when the seventh step is taken.

It is thus clear that the Act does not provide for any specific rites to be performed for marriage. It rather emphasizes that whatever ceremonies as per the custom of either of the party are required MUST be performed and performance of the necessary custom and rites may not be done away with in any case. A Hindu marriage is sacrosanct, the performance of a Sanskar, the customary religious rites must be observed in order to make a marriage valid. (Rabindra Nath Dutta Vs state AIR 1969 Cal 55) Following all rite of marriage like Saptpadi before sacred fire at chanting of Mantras by a Pandit is a necessary ingredient of a Hindu marriage unless it is done away by any custom like in Buddhist marriage. A marriage performed in the chamber of Advocate and bar association room does not amount to solemnization of marriage. (S. Balkrishan Pandiyan Vs S.P.Kanchipuram AIR2015(NOC) 593 Mad.)   Merely exchanging garlands in a temple without any formal customary rites is not a marriage.

The importance of customary rotes and Saptpadi was once again emphasized by Hon’ble High Court of Bombay recently in the matter of Family Court Appeal no 154of 2012 with Petition no739 of 2009 Mr. Sumit Subhash Agarwal Vs Ms Kamlesh Lata Prasad. The appeal was filed by the husband seeking a decree of nullity of his marriage and the wife as a counterclaim demanded restitution of conjugal rights. The family court below had disallowed the application of the husband and had allowed the conjugal rights claim of the wife.

The case of the husband was that on the date fixed for marriage a quarrel broke out between the bridegroom and the bride side and no marriage took place. Next day a lady calling herself a social worker called the bridegroom at the Hanuman temple. Where he found that the bride in full bridal getup was present along with some other persons. The bridegroom was forced to sign certain blank papers and to perform certain rite against his will like putting Sindur on the forehead of the bride. No Saptpadi was performed. The marriage was performed under duress and was liable to be declared a nullity.

The case of the wife was that on the day of marriage father of the bridegroom demanded a dowry of five lakh as the father of the wife was unable to give dowry and a quarrel broke out between the parties hence no marriage was solemnized on that day. But on the next day bridegroom and his family invited her and her family to Hanuman Temple in the presence of certain family person Saptpadi was performed and the marriage took place. From the temple, she directly went to residence of her husband. She stayed there for some days and the physical relations were established by the husband. But after some days when she was in her office she received a notice from the husband and when she went to her husband’s place the house was locked and the husband has deserted her. At this she lodged FIR against him. She pleaded for restitution of conjugal rights.

The family court after trial disallowed the application of the husband and held the marriage valid and allowed the counterclaim of the wife for restitution of conjugal rights. Both the parties came before the High court.

The High Court of Bombay relied upon the evidence of the priest who had conducted the marriage rites. The priest had testified that at the time of ceremony father and mother of the bride and the bridegroom and some other person were present. Photographs of the function were taken. The priest in his testimony stated that he is not aware what Saptpadi is and the seven Phere by bride and bridegroom jointly were taken before burning Agarbattis. The counsel of the husband contented before High Court that taking Phere before burning Agarbattis is not the Saptpadi before ‘sacred fire’  as envisaged by Sec 7 of Hindu Marriage Act 1955, hence no marriage took place.

The Hon’ble High Court was unable to agree with the submission of the learned counsel. The Court held that the words ‘sacred fire’ have not been defined in the SEC 7 of the Act. The Act under 7 mention Saptpadi before the sacred fire. Merely because they (Husband and wife) took seven Phere before burning Agaebattis does not mean seven phares were not taken around the sacred fire as contemplated under sec 7 of the Act. On the basis of photos and other evidence the court also turned down the plea of marriage being solemnized under duress.

The decision of Hon’ble High Court once again underlines that the Marriage under Hindus is a sacrosanct Sanskar and performance of customary rites is important.


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