6 Dec : Marriage between a Hindu and a Christian is invalid under the Hindu Marriage Act, as the Act provides for only Hindu couples to enter into a wedlock, the Supreme Court has ruled.
A Bench of Justices Altamas Kabir and Aftab Alam upheld the judgment of the Andhra Pradesh High Court which nullified a marriage, after the wife, Bandaru Pavani, a Hindu, claimed that her husband, Gullipilli Sowria Raj a Christian, had misled her by pretending to be a Hindu and married her at a temple.
The husband had misinformed about his social status, the wife had complained while seeking divorce.
According to the couple, Raj, a Roman Catholic Christian married Pavani on 24th October, 1996, in a temple by way of exchanging of ‘Thali’ (sacred thread) in the absence of any representative from either side.
Subsequently, the marriage was registered on 2nd November, 1996 under Section 8 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.
The matrimonial court rejected her plea for divorce saying the marriage was valid under the Hindu Marriage Act 1955, even if one of the parties belonged to any other faith.
However, the High Court upheld her plea and said the marriage was void as the Act postulated marriage only between Hindus, following which the husband filed the SLP in the apex court.
Dismissing the Christian husband’s appeal, the apex court said Section 5 of the Act makes it clear that a marriage may be solemnised between any two Hindus if the conditions contained in the said Section were fulfilled.
"The usage of the expression ‘may’ in the opening line of the Section, in our view, does not make the provision of Section 5 optional. On the other hand, it, in positive terms, indicates that a marriage can be solemnized between two Hindus if the conditions indicated were fulfilled".
"In other words, in the event the conditions remain unfulfilled, a marriage between two Hindus could not be solemnised. The expression ‘may’ used in the opening words of Section 5 is not directory, as has been sought to be argued, but mandatory and non-fulfillment thereof would not permit a marriage under the Act between two Hindus," the Bench observed.
The apex court also upheld the validity of Pavani’s subsequent marriage to another person as the High Court had granted divorce to her by holding the first marriage as illegal since the husband was a Christian.