India is a country with different religious belief and ethnic diversity. There is no single law that governs marriages and divorce of these religious beliefs. There are specialised laws that are applicable to different religions and ethnic groups. Some of the marriage acts applicable in India are-

•      Hindu Marriage Act, 1955:

The Hindu Marriage Act, which came into existence on 18th May 1955, governs all Hindu marriages. The Act has reformed the Hindu law of marriage and covers entire India except the state of Jammu & Kashmir. The Act applies to marriages when wither of the party to the marriage is a Hindu, Buddhist, Jain or Sikh by religion and also to those persons who are not Muslims, Christians, Parsis or Jews by religion.

A marriage under the Hindu Marriage Act is valid under following conditions:

§  Neither party should have a spouse living at the time of marriage. The spouse does not include a divorced husband/ wife.

§  At the time of marriage, the parties should be capable of giving a valid consent to the marriage. A person who is of a sound mind shall be considered to be a person capable to give a valid consent. Neither party, though capable of giving a valid consent should be suffering from mental disorder of such a kind or to such an extent as to be unfit for marriage and procreation of children. Neither party should be suffering from recurrent attacks of insanity or epilepsy.

§  The bridegroom should have attained the age of 21 years and the bride should have attained the age of 18 years at the time of marriage.

§  The parties should not be within the degrees of prohibited relationships, unless the customs or usage, permits such a marriage.

•      Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872:

Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872 governs solemnization of marriage of persons professing Christian religion. The Act provides that any marriage solemnized otherwise than in accordance with the Act shall be void. Marriage under Christian Law is in the nature of contract and hence there should be a free and voluntary consent between the parties. When there is a minor, as defined in the Act, the consent of father or guardian is necessary. Marriage is not permissible between the parties who are within the prohibited degrees of relationship under section 19 of the Act. There is no legal impediment for marriage between a Catholic and a Protestant. By marriage, the husband and the wife become one person, and the legal existence of the women is incorporated and consolidated into that of the husband.

Under the Indian Christian Marriage Act, the person solemnizing Christian marriages must be a person who has received episcopal ordination, or a clergyman of the Church of Scotland, or a Minister of Religion licensed under the Act or a Marriage Registrar appointed under section 7 of the Act or a person licensed under section 9 of the Act to grant certificates of marriage.

•      Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act, 1936

The Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act, 1936 governs the matrimonial relations of Parsis in India. The Act defines the word 'Parsi' as a Parsi Zoroastrian. A Zoroastrian is a person who professes the Zoroastrian religion. It has a racial significance. Every marriage as well as divorce under this Act is required to be registered in accordance with the procedure prescribed in the Act.

•      Muslim Marriages

Muslim marriages in India are governed by Shariyat laws. Marriage or “Nikah” in Islamic law is a contract pure and simple needing no writing and no scared rites. All that is necessary is offer and acceptance made in the presence and hearing of two male or female witnesses and recording the factum of marriage in the “Nikah” Register maintained in every mosque signed by the parties and attested by witnesses.

•      Special Marriage Act, 1954

The Special Marriage Act was enacted to provide a special form of marriage for any person in India and all Indian nationals in foreign countries irrespective of the religion or faith followed by either party to the marriage. The parties may observe any ceremonies for the solemnization of their marriage but certain formalities are prescribed before the marriage officer can register the marriage. For the good of the Indian citizens abroad, the act provides for the appointment of diplomatic and consular officers as marriage officers for solemnizing and registering marriages between citizens of India in a foreign country. The Act is applicable throughout the country except the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

•      Other laws governing marriages in India

Apart from these laws, there are other laws that also govern marriages in India. 

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