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OVERVIEW

In an order on the 9th of March, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has allowed the registration of marriage of a couple through video-conferencing. The wife was incapable of attending the registration of the marriage in person, since she is a medical professional in the United States who was disposing her responsibilities as she had been assigned with emergency duties due to the outbreak of the COVID19 pandemic, and the husband was not allowed to obtain a VISA to meet his wife in the US in the absence of a marriage certificate. 

A Bench of Justices Ritu Bahri and Archana Puri set aside the decision of a single bench which barred them from performing such marriage registration if both the parties were not present physically. They permitted the wife to attend such marriage registration via video conferencing after such requisite authentication of her identity.

BACKGROUND 

The appellants in this case were the husband, Ami Ranjan, who has been working in a firm in London (United Kingdom) as an IT Consultant since 2017; and the wife, Misha, a medical professional, is a woman of Indian origin but is now a citizen of the United States where she is employed as a resident doctor at the Virginia University School of Medicine. 

On December 7, 2019, their marriage was solemnized with the blessings of their parents and families at Gurugram (Haryana). Such ceremony was conducted according to Hindu rites and rituals. The newly married couple went back to their respective work places in the UK and the US on the 10th of December and the 15th of December in 2019, respectively. 

They applied for the registration of their marriage before the Gurugram marriage officer on the 29th of January, 2020. It was then that they put forth the request of excusing Misha’s physical absence for the registration of marriage, and permitting her to attend the registration via video calling. 

The marriage officer requested the physical appearance of such appellants before him on the 3rd of April, 2020. 

Meanwhile the world saw the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the subsequent imposition of lockdown by the Indian government and most countries around the world barred the couple from returning to India.

On August 7, 2020, the husband urged the marriage officer to permit the second motion hearing to also be conducted via video conferencing. Such request was rejected on September 11, 2020.
The single bench dismissed their plea and cited the reason to be absence of any provision for registration of the marriage without the parties being physically present before the marriage officer to sign the “marriage certificate book” under the Special Marriage Act, 1954.

FURTHER DETAILS 

Senior Advocate Navniti Prasad Singh and Nitin Kant Setia, representing the appellants, appealed to the Punjab and Haryana High Court in a Letter Patents Appeal (LPA), whereby it challenged the single bench order which dismissed the writ filed such couple who sought the quashing of the order issued by the Deputy Collector-cum-Marriage Officer of Gurugram.

The division bench of Justices Ritu Bahri and Archana Puri permitted the wife to attend the video conference. They provided them with options so that their authenticity could be determined, and permitted her to attend such video conferencing either from the Indian High Commission, or from a designated hospital in the United States of America, and owing to the different time zones, consult with the deputy commissioner-cum-marriage officer of Gurugram or the Indian consulate in the US regarding a suitable time.

The bench further accredited technology for enabling digital attestation documents and is of the opinion that “the registration of marriage of spouses separated by distance had to be addressed keeping in view the changing times.”

CONCLUSION 

The Punjab and Haryana High Court, in their order, said that “..In this case, presence of Misha Verma [wife] can be secured through video-conferencing and presence of husband Ami Ranjan and three witnesses can be marked by their appearance in the office of Registrar of Marriages. Then, the certificate of marriage can be issued on doing verification of facts as contemplated under Sections 15 and 16 of the Special Marriage Act. Once the marriage certificate is issued, it can be made part of the public record under Section 47 of the Act by entering it into the marriage certificate book. There shall be no violation of Section 47 of the Act.”  


DO LET US KNOW IN THE COMMENTS BELOW OF HOW YOU THINK SUCH DECISION WOULD IMPACT LONG-DISTANCE COUPLES WHO WISH TO MARRY!
 

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