Mumbai: The Bombay High Court recently held, if a marriage is performed as per Hindu rites by two individuals, in which one is of another religion, then their marriage is valid. The HC, accordingly, quashed the orders passed by a Mumbai Family Court, terming illegal, a marriage between a Hindu woman and a Christian man.
The significant ruling was delivered by a division bench of Justices Indrajit Mahanty and Sarang Kotwal. The bench was seized with an appeal filed by a woman, who married a Christian man, way back in 1996. The couple was married as per Hindu rites, but filed for a separation in 2017.
Accordingly, the woman had petitioned the Family Court, Mumbai, seeking annulment of their marriage. During the course of litigation, the woman amended her plea and sought a specific relief regarding the legal status of the couple, in respect to their marriage. The Family Court in its September 2018 judgment, however, turned down the plea, saying it cannot “legalise an already illegal conduct of the parties” as they had got married as per the Hindu rites.
Having admitted the appeal, the bench led by Justice Mahanty noted the “harsh observations” of the Family Court.
“We may observe that the learned Judge of the Family Court, was rather harsh in observing that the parties had done illegal thing by getting married in the manner in which they had performed their marriage.
We also feel that the learned Judge’s observation that the parties wanted to legalise the illegal act; was not appropriate,” the bench said. “The parties had got married as per Hindu rites though one of the parties was not a Hindu, but for that, labelling their act as illegal is unwarranted,” the bench held.
The bench further noted that the couple had sought legal separation under provisions of the Specific Relief Act. “The provisions of the Specific Relief Act, deals not only with a civil right, but also deals with the declaration of any legal character. Hence, the parties have rightly sought relief of declaration regarding their status.
The parties, thus have a right to approach the Family Court for declaration as to their matrimonial status and such a petition is maintainable and legal,” the bench ruled. The bench accordingly, remanded the matter back to the Family Court to decide their pleas, afresh.
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