How a law is coming in the way of love marriages
Aweek after they eloped, X and Y ran out of money. They had given Rs 15,000 to a lawyer to get married quickly but he had cheated them. They had not eaten in four days. Desperate and scared, the two needed to escape Rajasthan before their families caught up with them. X, a Muslim, thought it was safer to come to Delhi with his Hindu brideto-be and opt for a religious wedding even though they didn’t want to convert.
Ironically, the Special Marriages Act (SMA), a law meant to facilitate inter-faith and intercaste marriages, has become a hurdle for couples as it mandates a 30-day notice period before the marriage is solemnised. During that time, the administration puts out a notice to inform the public of the marriage, with the full name and address of the couple, sometimes even a picture, and also sends a notice to the address of the two people intending to marry.
In a city like Delhi, a public notice may not elicit much reaction, but in smaller towns with close-knit communities it can be a red flag. “Putting up a notice at the district administration office or sending a notice to the person’s home makes couples vulnerable to vigilante groups,
If SC has recognised live-in relationships and there is no bar on that, why do two consenting adults need to announce their intention to marry and take permission from society?
LAWYER busybodies or just people who think they mean well,’’ says Vikas Tiwari, a Delhi-based lawyer. For instance, if there is a notice about a “Sharma’’ girl marrying a Muslim boy, even the office clerks and peons take it upon themselves to call up the family acting as “well-wishers’’ while vigilante groups decide to visit the family to intimidate them.
“If the Supreme Court has recognised live-in relationships and there is no bar on that, why do two consenting adults need to announce their intention to marry and take permission from society? It is completely absurd,” Tiwari says, adding that the notice period should be shortened. In case either of the adults is cheating (is already married) or of unsound mind or guilty of any violations, there are provisions in law to deal with such situations, he points out.
Asif Iqbal, co-founder of Dhanak, a support group for inter-faith couples, has seen many couples succumb to pressure and opt for a religious marriage because they fear being caught and separated.
In Delhi, he says, after the application for SMA has been put online the waiting period is close to 40-45 days, aggravating problems for a fleeing couple. “In comparison, if a couple gets either a nikah or an Arya Samaj wedding, they can be married and have it registered within a day. In a way you are forcing people to convert when there is no real desire to,” Iqbal says.
Tiwari says that getting protection is also a cumbersome process as in most states couples have to approach the high court, which is both expensive and time-consuming. Desperation also makes them easy prey for touts and middlemen who may charge between Rs 50,000 and Rs 1 lakh for a quick-fix wedding.