Lucknow: In a development that is likely to bring relief to inter-faith couples, the Allahabad High Court on Wednesday (January 13) ruled that the display of public notices for marriages under the Special Marriage Act (SMA) will not be mandatory from now on.
In its 47-page judgment, the court observed that the display of such notices "would invade in the fundamental rights of liberty and privacy" and would leave the couples in question susceptible to "interference from state and non-state actors".
“In case the same on their simplistic reading are held mandatory, as per the law declared today, they would invade in the fundamental rights of liberty and privacy, including within its sphere freedom to choose for marriage without interference from state and non-state actors, of the persons concerned,” noted Justice Vivek Chaudhury on this day while delivering the judgment.
According to the interpretation of Sections 6 and 7 read with Section 46 of the Special Marriages Act, 1954, inter-faith couple are required to give written notice of the marriage to the District Marriage Officer.
The law required the inter-faith married couples to do so on the grounds that anyone could object to the marriage within 30 days if it violated the existing rules and customs of the community in question.
This will not be mandatory henceforth, and can be opted by the couples "to publish or not publish a notice". The optional provision means that the inter-faith couples can now give a written request to the Marriage Officer notifying their choice to publish or not publish such a notice.
The court directed that the copy of the judgment be sent to the Chief Secretary of Uttar Pradesh, who will subsequently be required to communicate the same to all the marriage officers of the state and other concerned officials as soon as possible.
The court was hearing a plea filed by an inter-faith couple challenging the provision of issuing a public notice to invite objections to marriages. The habeas corpus petition was filed by the husband of detenue Safia Sultana, who contended that her family was not permitting her to live peacefully after marriage since she had converted to Hinduism.
The 30-day notice period, a provision kept to invite public objection to be invited during the span, would be an invasion of their privacy and would have caused unneeded social stigma and famiy interference in their free choice, the petition stated.