The Lucknow Bench of Allahabad High Court on Wednesday made display of notice for marriage of interfaith couples as optional, thus bringing relief to many. The court said the publication of such notices “invade the fundamental rights of liberty and privacy”.
The court acknowledged that such act affects couple’s freedom to choose partner. “Without interference from state and non-state actors”, the court mentioned on the right to choose a life partner.
According to a section of the Special Marriages Act, 1954, interfaith couples are required to give written notice of the marriage to the District Marriage Officer. The law states that notices for such marriages should be produced in front of the District Marriage Officer so that in case anyone wants to object to the marriage, can do it within 30 days on grounds that it would contravene the usual rules, including age, mental health and customs of their communities.
Justice Vivek Chaudhary, in a 47-page judgment, said couples can now give a written request to the Marriage Officer “to publish or not to publish a notice”.
In case they do not make a request for publication of the notice, the Marriage Officer “shall not publish any such notice or entertain objections to the intended marriage and proceed with the solemnization of the marriage,” the order read.
The court’s ruling comes after a petition of a Muslim woman who chose to embrace Hinduism in order to marry a man of Hindu faith. The petition said her father was not permitting her to live with her husband.
In the case, Justice Chaudhary observed that the couple had expressed views that their marriage could be solemnized under the Special Marriage Act, which requires the 30-day notice that invites objections from the public at large.
“They expressed views that any such notice would be an invasion in their privacy and would have definitely caused unnecessary social pressure/interference in their free choice with regard to their marriage,” the judge said.
The judgment also observed that the woman’s lawyers also stated the “situation may become more critical with notification of Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020, as the same prohibits conversion of religion by marriage to be unlawful”.
The reference was made to the newly enacted controversial law in the state which prohibits forcible conversion on pre-text of marriage. Since the law was passed, there have been several controversial arrests, mostly of Muslim men, who have been accused of trying to forcibly convert Hindu women for marriage.