Special Marriage Act, 1954

Special Marriage Act

Introduction Special Marriage Act, 1954

India is a country full of culture and tradition. It gave birth to many religions other than Hinduism, such as Sikhism, Buddhism, Jainism, etc. There are people from many religions residing in India like Muslims, Christians, and Parsis. Moreover, casteism inside the religions is one of the major factor governing the policies of India.

Marriage is one of the most sacred institutions around the globe. Earlier, the elders of the house used to select the partner for the Marriage. Generally, the selection was based upon caste. moreover, it was against society to marry inter-caste. Even today, marriage in other caste or religion is not fully acceptable. Even though, we have proper Legislation to regulate Inter caste and Inter religion marriage.


In 1872, HS Maine introduced Act III of 1872, which gave permission to dissenters to marry whoever they choose under new Civil Marriage Law. But it was inadequate. In 1954 Parliament enacted Special Marriage Act,1954  to provide for registration and validation of special form of marriage in India. 

The new enactment has three major objectives:

  1. To provide for the special form of marriage in certain cases;
  2. To provide for the registration of certain marriages; and
  3. To provide for Divorce.

Scope of Special Marriage Act

Inter-caste marriages are those marriages where bride and groom, both are from different caste and religion. Earlier in India, marrying in other caste considered a crime against the community. However, Inter-caste marriages have gained acceptance due to improvement in the lifestyle and upbringing of people. Today’s generation is trying to break-free the ties of orthodoxy and prefer to choose their partner themselves irrespective of their caste. For the acceptance of such marriage, our parliament enacted a proper legislation i.e Special Marriage Act. It gave condition and requirement for the special marriage. Also in the case of mishappening, it gave power to courts to interfere.

Application of the Act

Chapter 1 of The Special Marriage Act deals with the applicability of the act.

  • These acts cover all the religions namely, Hindu, Muslim, Sikhs, Christians, Jews, Buddhists. 
  • It also applies not only to the people living in India but also to the Indian nationals living abroad.
  • It applies to all the states of India except Jammu and Kashmir. Article 370 of The Indian Constitution gave the autonomous status to Jammu and Kashmir.

The requirement for the Marriage

In India, generally, marriages require to be done by the priests with proper rituals and countless ceremonies taking up to a week full of rituals. Unlike a normal Hindu Marriage, Inter Caste Marriages do not require such rituals and ceremonies to be followed. 

  • Consent of the Parties: The Consent of both the parties to the marriage is the first and most important requirement. because, marriage is a social contract and Without consent, no contract can be binding.
  • Notice of Registration: Parties require to file a written notice in prescribed form before the District Marriage Officer.
  • Place and time of Registration: Notice should be filed in the District where one of the two parties have been residing for more than 30 days immediately preceding to the issue of notice. [section – 5]


Chapter 2: Solemnization of Marriage’  has laid down certain conditions to be fulfilled strictly.  If not followed, marriage will be considered as Void Ab Initio.

  • Age of the Parties: The prescribed age for Bride and Groom is 18 and 21 years respectively.
  • No Living Spouse: None of the party has any living spouse at the time of marriage i.e both the party should not have any other husband-wife whatsoever at any other place or in any other religion.
  • The soundness of Mind: Competent to make a contract of marriage i.e both parties must be of sane mind at the time of giving the consent. Any mental disorder while giving consent makes the marriage voidable.
  • Free Consent:  the consent of the parties must be free i.e without any undue influence.
  • Prohibited Degree of Relationship: And the parties must not be related to each other by blood i.e neither half blood nor full blood and they must not come under prohibited relationships stipulated by the legislation.

Provision for Divorce

Special Marriage Act prohibits the filing of divorce petition within one year of marriage. Moreover, in case the court has reason to believe that the petitioner had to experience hardships or the respondent has failed to provide the basics. In that case, the court can entertain the petition. And if the court finds some misrepresentation on the part of the petitioner, the court can deny to maintain the petition and will entertain the same after the expiration of one year.


Casteism has always been a problem in India. people from higher caste has always looked down on people of a lower caste. Special marriage helps the people of one caste to understand other castes. Such marriages have been found very useful in the unification of the families, hence unification of the nation. Moreover, it helped to eliminate inequalities based upon caste and religion. The acts provided for agreement for both the parties in individual capacities. And removing the barriers of casteism.

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by kunal kashyap

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