Marriage, especially in India is a holy bond. An Indian marriage does not take place between two people alone. There are many factors at play. Customs, traditions and the society are just a few of them. When we think of marriage, we think of love, laughter, and celebrations. What we do not think of is the conditions before that celebration. In India, religious personal laws set out the conditions for a valid marriage.
Valid marriage under Hindu Law
The Hindu Marriage Act (HMA) regulates marriages between two Hindus in India. It lays down the following conditions for a valid marriage.
- Neither party should have a spouse living at the time of the marriage.
- The parties should be able to give free consent for the marriage.
- Parties should be of sound mind.
- The groom must be at least 21 years old. The bride must be at least 18.
- The parties should not be in a “prohibited’ relationship. E.g. aunts, cousins, uncles, etc.
- The parties should not be “Sapindas” of each other.
Related: Court Marriage Procedure in India
What is the meaning of Sapinda?
- “Sapinda” means a relative in a straight line through the mother or father.
- It runs upward to three generations in case of the mother, and five generations in case of the father.
- E.g. Both your maternal and paternal Grandfather or Grandmother are your Sapindas.
- But, only your paternal great-great grandfather is your Sapinda.
The HMA says that only a marriage performed through certain ceremonies will be valid. “Saptpadi” is one such ceremony. It takes place when both the bride and groom take seven steps in front of the holy fire.
Any other ceremony, which is an established custom, will be valid too.
Valid marriage under Christian Law
Indian Christian Marriage Act applies to marriage between two Christian individuals. This act lays down some conditions which are almost same as the HMA.
- The groom must be at least 21 years of age and the bride at least 18 years.
- Neither person should have a spouse living at the time of marriage.
- The bride and groom need a licensed person as well as two witnesses.
- Finally, they need to speak certain words in front of these persons.
- After this, they will be a married couple as per the law.
To know the exact words, please click here.
Valid marriage under Parsi Law
The Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act regulates Parsi marriages in India. It lays down the following conditions.
- The marriage must follow Parsi traditions.
- A ceremony is known as “Ashirvad” must take place in the presence of a priest and two Parsi witnesses.
- Just like the HMA, no prohibited relationships.
- Age requirements remain the same, that is, 21 for the groom and 18 for the bride.
Valid marriage under Muslim Law
Marriage under Muslim law is different from marriages in other religions.
No specific law regulates Muslim weddings. Further, there is no compulsory religious ceremony. Marriage or Nikah is a contract with the object of procreation of legitimate heirs. Custom dictates the conditions of a valid marriage and not law. These conditions are:
- Parties must be of sound mind.
- Parties should have attained puberty.
- To qualify for a Muslim marriage/Nikah, both parties must be Muslims.
Valid marriage under Special Marriage Act
The Special Marriage Act regulates all marriages that do not come under above categories. The main object of this Act is to make inter-religion marriages legal. But, two parties belonging to the same religion can also get married under this Act. Conditions for valid marriage under this Act are as follows:
- Neither party should have a living spouse.
- The parties should be of sound mind and capable of giving free consent.
- They should not be in prohibited degrees of relationship with each other.
- The groom must be 21 years of age and the bride , 18 years.
Void, voidable & irregular marriages
An invalid marriage as per the above conditions may be void, voidable or irregular.
Such a marriage has no legal status whatsoever. It is equal to a marriage that has never have taken place. Parties to such a marriage are free to marry someone else. But, only if a court declares the marriage void. They don’t need a written decree nullifying the marriage.
An instance of void marriage would be a marriage between two children aged 15. Another would be a marriage between an aunt and nephew. In fact, any marriage is void if it violates conditions of a valid marriage.
Such a marriage is not void at the outset. But, a court of law may declare it to be void.
The most common example would be a forced marriage. A person can go to the court if he agrees to get married because of force. Court will declare the marriage as void.
Thus, a party to a voidable marriage can ask for its nullification.
Irregular marriages are not common, but they still take place. If an essential ceremony is not performed at the time of marriage, it will be irregular. It is possible to rectify such irregularity later. Rectifying an irregularity will regularize the marriage.
Whether a marriage is a valid marriage or not, would come up only when a dispute arises in a marriage. Therefore, it is always advisable to be aware of the respective applicable conditions to avoid any legal complications in the future.
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