Share on Facebook

Share on Twitter

Share on LinkedIn

Share on Email

Share More

Rajan Salvi (Lawyer)     07 December 2008

marriage between christian and hindu

Mr Pandey, the judgment u wanted.

                                    IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

                                                 CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

                                                  CIVIL APPEAL NO. 2446 OF 2005



Gullipilli Sowria Raj                     ...Appellant




Bandaru Pavani @ Gullipili Pavani         ...Respondent



                   J U D G M E N T





1.    The only question which falls for determination       in this Civil Appeal by way of Special Leave is  whether a marriage entered into by a Hindu with  a Christian is valid under the provisions of  the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.


2.    The   appellant,   who   is   a   Roman   Catholic  Christian allegedly married the respondent, who  is a Hindu, on 24.10.1996, in a temple only by  exchange of `Thali' and in the absence of any  representative from either side. Subsequently,  the marriage was registered on 2.11.1996 under  Section   8   of     the    Hindu    Marriage     Act,       1955,

     hereinafter referred to as the "1955 Act".


3.   Soon thereafter, on 13.3.1997, the respondent-  wife filed a petition before the Family Court  at   Vishakapatnam,        being    O.P.     No.84    of     1997,  under   Section      12(1)(c)       of    1955   Act,      for       a  decree of nullity of the marriage entered into

 between     the     parties    on        24.10.1996     on     the  grounds mentioned in the said petition.


4.   The main ground for declaring the marriage to  be a nullity was mainly mis representation by  the appellant regarding his social status and  that he was a Hindu by religion, although it  transpired         after    the     marriage         that      the  appellant and his family members all professed  the Christian faith. The Family Court dismissed  the said petition against which an appeal was  preferred     by    the    respondent       before    the     High  Court, which allowed the appeal by its judgment   and order dated            12.9.2002 upon holding that  the marriage between a Hindu and a Christian                                           

     under the 1955 Act is void ab initio and that  the marriage was, therefore, a nullity.


5.   A    few   months      thereafter       on   23.1.2003      the     respondent married one Dr. Praveen. Thereafter,   on   23.4.2003      the    appellant     filed     a    Special

  Leave Petition out of which the present appeal  arises.




6.   There is no dispute that at the time of the  purported marriage between the appellant and      the respondent the appellant was a Christian  and continues to be so whereas the respondent  was a Hindu and continues to be so. There is   also no dispute that the marriage was alleged   to have been performed under the Hindu Marriage  Act,    1955,    and      was    also    registered       under   Section    8    thereof.    As    against    the       above,       a     novel argument has been advanced on behalf of      the appellant, the substance whereof is that   the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 does not preclude    a Hindu from marrying a person of some other  faith. In order to assist the Court in regard   to such a submission, the Court had requested   Mr.   U.U.   Lalit,     learned     Senior   Advocate,    to  assist the Court in the matter.


7.   Mr.    Lalit     firstly       took    us    through     the   provisions of Section 5 of the 1955 Act which  prescribes the conditions for a Hindu marriage.


     The opening words of Section 5 are as follows:


           "A marriage may be solemnized between  any two Hindus, if the following

           conditions are fulfilled, namely :..."


8.   Mr. Lalit submitted that the use of the word      `may' in the         opening words of Section 5 seems   to    indicate       that    the   conditions    were    not  mandatory      and    that    as   a   result,   the    said  conditions would not be binding on the marriage

performed      between       the    appellant    and     the  respondent.                                                                      


9.    Mr. Lalit then took us through the provisions  of Section 11 of the 1955 Act, which deals with  void marriages and indicates as follows :


           "11.  Void marriages :- Any marriage  solemnized after the commencement of

           this Act shall be null and void and may,  on a petition presented by either party

           thereto, against the other party be so declared by a decree of nullity if it

           contravenes any one of the conditions  specified in clauses (i), (iv) and (v),

           Section 5."


10.   Mr.         Lalit     submitted          that     none        of    the  conditions, as indicated in Section 11, apply  to    the     facts    of    this      case     and   as   such    the  marriage        between          the     appellant         and     the respondent          could    not    be    said    to     be    a   void  marriage. According to Mr. Lalit, at best the marriage        could       be   said      to    be    a      voidable  marriage and the High Court appears to have      proceeded        on    an    erroneous        footing      that     the  marriage was ab initio void.





11. Adopting the line of submission advanced by Mr. Lalit, Mr. C. Mukund, learned counsel for the  appellant,     submitted     that   the     Heading    of  Section 5 –

`Conditions for a Hindu marriage'   was a misnomer,         having regard to the use of

 the expression      `may' in the opening lines of the   Section.    Mr.    Mukund   submitted   that    the  conditions indicated in Section 5 must be held  to be optional and that Section 7 of the said Act where also the expression `may' has been  used in Sub-section (1) must be understood to refer to a marriage and not the parties to the  marriage. Mr. Mukund submitted that Section 11 of    the   Hindu    Marriage     Act,    1955,   would,     therefore, have an overriding effect over the  provisions of Section 5  which, according to  him, were optional. Mr. Mukund reiterated that  the    Hindu     Marriage    Act,   1955,     does    not contemplate a valid marriage only between two  Hindus, and urged that the High Court had erred  in allowing the respondent's application under

 Section       12(1)(c)     of     the    above    Act     on    such  misconception of the provisions thereof.




12.     Mr.    Y.      Rajagopala       Rao,     learned        advocate appearing for the respondent wife, submitted that it    will     first    have     to    be     decided    whether       the marriage performed between the parties was a valid Hindu marriage or not. According to Mr. Rao, the other    questions       would    arise       only    thereafter.       In

this regard, Mr. Rao submitted that the Preamble to the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, in unambiguous terms makes    it    clear    that     the    Act    was    promulgated       to

amend and codify law relating to marriage amongst Hindus. He urged that the language of the Preamble leaves    no    room    for     doubt    that    the    Act     and    its

provisions would apply to Hindus only, as defined in      Section        2,      Sub-section           (1)(c)      whereof specifically         excludes     a     person        professing       the

Christian faith from the its ambit. Mr. Rao urged that each religious community in India had their own form of marriages which excluded members of other    religious          communities,       though     the     Indian Marriage Act did recognize a marriage between a Christian   and   non-Christian   to   be   valid,   though under the provisions of the Special Marriage Act.


13.   Mr. Rao also referred to Section 2 of the above Act which reads as follows:


        2.-Application of Act- (1) This Act  applies,-


        (a) to any person who is a Hindu by  religion in any of of its forms or

        developments, including a Virashaiva,  a Lingayat or a follower of the

        Brahmo, Prarthana or Arya Samaj;


        (b) to any person who is a Buddhist, Jaina or Sikh by religion, and



(c) to any other person domiciled in the territories to which this Act  extends   who   is  not  a   Muslim,   Christian, Parsi or Jew by religion,   unless it is proved that any such  person would not have been governed  by the Hindu law or by any custom or usage as part of that law in respect  of any of the matters dealt with herein if this Act had not been  passed.


        Explanation.-    The following persons

        are Hindus,      Buddhists, Jainas or Sikhs by religion, as the case may be,-



(a)   any    child,  legitimate  or illegitimate, both of whose parents

are Hindus, Buddhists, Jainas or Sikhs by religion;

(b)   any    child,   legitimate   or illegitimate, one of whose parents is

a Hindu, Buddhist Jaina or Sikh by religion and who is brought up as a

member of tribe, community, group or family to which such parents belongs

or belonged; and

(c) any person who is a convert or re-convert to the Hindus, Buddhist,

Jaina or Sikh religion.



(2)      Notwithstanding     anything contained in sub-section (1),nothing contained in this Act shall apply to the members of any Scheduled Tribe within the meaning of clause (25) of Article   366   of  the  Constitution unless the Central Government, by notification in the Official Gazette, otherwise directs.


(3) The expression "Hindus" in any portion   of   this   Act   shall   be construed as if it included a person who, though not a Hindu by religion is, nevertheless, a person whom this Act   applies   by   virtue    of  the provisions    contained     in    this section."


14. Reference was then made to Section 4 of the Act which, inter alia, provides that save as otherwise expressly     provided    in   the   Act   any    text    Rule   or interpretation of Hindu Law or any customs or usage as part of that law in force immediately before the

commencement of the Act would cease to have effect with respect to any matter for which provision had been made in that Act. Mr. Rao pointed out that the said Section also provided that the Hindu Marriage Act,    1955,     would   override   other       laws    in   force immediately before the commencement of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, in so far it was inconsistent with any of the provisions of the 1955 Act.


15. With regard to the provisions of Section 5 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, Mr. Rao submitted that it was clear from the wording thereof that the conditions indicated in the Section were to apply only in respect of a marriage between two Hindus and    that   a   Hindu   marriage    could      be     solemnized between two Hindus only when the conditions set out in     the    provisions         contained         therein       had        been

fulfilled.          According         to    Mr.    Rao,    the     marriage between the parties would have to be categorized within the scope and ambit of Section 12 relating to voidable marriage since a void marriage under Section 11 of the Act had been defined to mean anymarriage solemnized after the commencement of the Act if it contravenes any one of the conditions specified in clauses (i)(iv) and (v) of Section 5. Since    the     marriage       of    the    parties       did    not       fall within the said categories, the respondent had no option but to make an application under Section 12 (1)(c)       that   the      marriage       was    a    nullity        on    the ground that the appellant had been beguiled into the     marriage        by      the    appellant          on     fraudulent considerations,           one    of    which      was   that     he     was        a Hindu at the time of marriage. Mr. Rao submitted that     since      a   valid         marriage      under        the    Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, could only be performed between two Hindus the marriage had been rightly declared to be a nullity by the High Court and its decision did not warrant any interference in this appeal.


16.   Apart     from    the    aforesaid       question,    another submission      was    advanced     on     behalf     of    the respondent to the effect that, after the decree passed in her favour declaring the marriage to be a nullity, she had remarried on 23.1.2003 i.e about 4 months after the decree declaring her marriage with the appellant to be nullity had been passed.


17. Various decisions were cited on behalf of both the   parties    with       regard   to   this    aspect    of    the matter which, in our view, is not really important for a decision on the legal question that has been raised in the appeal.


18.   Although,        an     attempt     has    been      made    to establish that the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, did not prohibit a valid Hindu marriage of a Hindu and another professing a different faith, we are unable to   agree    with    such   submission   in   view   of   the definite scheme of the 1955 Act.


19.In order to appreciate the same, we may first  refer to the Preamble to the Hindu Marriage Act,      1955 , which reads as follows:


  "An Act to amend and codify the law relating to marriage among Hindus".

             (Emphasis added)


20.As submitted by Mr. Rao, the Preamble itself  indicates that the Act was enacted to codify the law relating to marriage amongst Hindus. Section  2 of the Act which deals with application of the  Act,    and     has   been   reproduced   hereinabove,  reinforces the said proposition.



21.Section 5 of the Act thereafter also makes it  clear that a marriage may be solemnized between   any two Hindus        if the conditions contained in   the said Section were fulfilled. The usage of   the expression `may' in the opening line of the   Section,   in   our      view,       does   not   make     the   provision of Section 5 optional. On the other   hand, it in positive terms, indicates that a   marriage can be solemnized between two Hindus if

  the   conditions    indicated        were     fulfilled.   In   other words, in the event the conditions remain   unfulfilled, a marriage between two Hindus could   not be solemnized. The expression `may' used in   the opening words of Section 5 is not directory,   as has been sought to be argued, but mandatory   and non-fulfilment thereof would not permit a   marriage   under    the    Act   between        two   Hindus.   Section 7 of the 1955 Act is to be read along   with Section    5   in    that   a    Hindu    marriage,   as   understood under Section 5, could be solemnized   according to the ceremonies indicated therein.


22.In the facts pleaded by the respondent in her   application under Section 12(1)(c) of the 1955   Act and the admission of the appellant that he    was and still is a Christian belonging to the    Roman     Catholic      denomination,             the     marriage   solemnized in accordance with Hindu customs was    a nullity and its registration under Section 8 ct could not and/or did not validate the    same.     In    our   view,    the     High     Court     rightly  allowed the appeal preferred by the respondent    herein and the judgment and order of the High  Court does not warrant any interference.


23.The     other     question          raised        regarding       the  subsequent       marriage     of    the        respondent    is    of  little    relevance     once       we    have     held    that    the    marriage        purported     to        have     been     performed   between    the     appellant       and     the    respondent       on   24.10.1996 was a nullity. Hence, no decision is  called for in that regard and we also make no  observation in respect thereof.


24.The appeal is accordingly dismissed.


25.There will, however, be no order as to costs.


26.We   place   on   record   our    appreciation   of   the assistance provided by Mr. Lalit to help us to  arrive at a decision in this appeal.






                                           (ALTAMAS KABIR)







                                              (AFTAB ALAM)



New Delhi



Dated: 4.12.2008




 2 Replies

Tribhuwan Pandey (Advocate)     07 December 2008

Thank u so much dear Salvi

Adv.Shine Thomas (Advocate)     08 December 2008

Thanks very much Mr.Rajan Salvi.

Leave a reply

Your are not logged in . Please login to post replies

Click here to Login / Register  

Start a New Discussion Unreplied Threads

Popular Discussion

view more »

Post a Suggestion for LCI Team
Post a Legal Query