Change your mindset, don’t obstruct inter-faith marriage: HC to officials

The procedure for a court marriage, it has said, “must reflect the mindset of the changed times in a secular nation promoting inter-religion marriages”.

Ruling on an inter-faith marriage case of a Hindu-Muslim couple, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has said that officialdom must not be seen “raising eyebrows and laying snares and landmines” in such cases. The procedure for a court marriage, it has said, “must reflect the mindset of the changed times in a secular nation promoting inter-religion marriages”.

In his July 20 order released Wednesday, Justice Rajiv Narain Raina, ruling on the plea of a couple who had approached the High Court against court marriage rules framed by the Haryana government, said the Court Marriage Check List (CMCL), issued by the Haryana government, largely violates the couple’s right to privacy.

The couple — one from Gurgaon, and the other from Faridabad — wanted to legalise their marriage under the Special Marriage Act without change of religion.

“The provisions appear particularly offensive and excessive executive action beyond the purview of the (Special Marriage) Act,” the judge stated in his order.

“It is suggested to the State of Haryana to suitably modify and simplify the CMCL to bring it in line with the Act by minimal executive interference. It may restrict the list to conditions which account for fundamental procedure avoiding unwarranted overload of obstructions and superfluity,” he ruled.

The petitioners had sought directions that the District Marriage Officer in Gurgaon should desist from sending notices of their intended marriage to their parents, and not publish anything regarding it in a national newspaper.

The woman, who is a Hindu, argued in court that her parents are opposed to the marriage and the usual procedure of the check list should not be followed in their case as it affects their right to privacy.

Advocate Tanu Bedi, who represented the couple, argued that the CMCL directives are “highly offensive, insensitive, arbitrary, primitive and out of sync with rapidly changing social order” and the condition — that the couple should not be staying at one place — amounts to moral policing in a country where the judiciary has recognised live-in relationships.

The High Court, in its order to the District Marriage Officer, directed him to consider temporary residences of the couple in the marriage application instead of seeking their permanent address and not send the advance notice to their parents “to strictly maintain privacy rights, their right to life and liberty”.

The Gurgaon Deputy Commissioner told the bench that no official was asked to visit the residences of the couple for address verification. The High Court, in the order, said the residential address declared by the two in the form filed before the Marriage Officer will be considered as self-attestation of the residential address.

While directing the Marriage Officer to consider their marriage application only in accordance with the Act and the judgment, Justice Raina said the notice for the intended marriage will be put in the office of the Marriage Officer for thirty days after which the officer may proceed to register the marriage.

“In case, any objections, if filed, are grave in nature, he may deal with them in accordance with law by keeping uppermost in his mind the wish/desire/choice of the petitioners, which is the supreme consideration,” the judge said in his order.

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