What conditions have been laid down by the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955 for a valid Hindu marriage ?

Ans. For proper understanding of the present conditions for a Hindu marriage as laid down by Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, it is essential to have some idea of the prior Hindu Law of marriage.

Conditions of marriage—Prior Hindu Law.—

Under the textual Hindu Law, for a marriage to be valid, three conditions were necessary to be fulfilled. These conditions were :—

(i) identity of caste between the parties;

(ii) parties to be beyond the prohibited degrees of relationship; and

(iii) proper ceremonies of marriage performed. Ancient Hindu texts prohibited Tratiloma’ marriages, i.e., between males of lower caste and females of higher caste. But ‘Anuloma’ marriage, i.e. between males of higher caste and females of lower caste, were permitted and recognised by the texts.

1. Conditions of marriage under Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 Now, under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, the identity of Caste or sub-caste is not necessary for a valid marriage. The Act does not recognise the prohibition in marriage on the basis of Sagotra relationship.

The Act has however, provided five conditions prerequisite for a valid Hindu marriage which are as follows :—

(1) Monogamy—Section 5 (i).—The first condition of a valid marriage is that “neither party has a spouse living at the time of the marriage”. A second marriage while a previous married wife is living, is null and void [A.I.R. 1964 S.C. 1625). Thus this clause provides the rule of monogamy and prohibits polygamy which was permitted before this Act. This is a mandatory provision, the violation of which renders the party, marrying liable for punishment under section 17 of the Act. In Smt. Yamunabai Anant Rao Adhar v. Anant Rao Thiraram Adhar, (AIR 1988 S.C. 644), it has been held that the marriage becomes null and void where it is in violation of the first condition of section 5. It becomes void ab initio and ipso facto the wife of a void marriage cannot claim maintenance under Section. 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

(2) Sanity—Section 5 (ii).—The second condition for a valid marriage as provided under the ‘Marriage Laws (Amendment) Act,-1976 is that at the time of marriage, neither party—

(a) is capable of giving a valid consent to it in consequence of unsoundness of mind; or

(b) though capable of giving a valid consent, has been suffering from mental disorder of such a kind or to such an extent as to be unfit for marriage and the procreation of children; or

(c) has been subject to recurring attacks of insanity.

(3) Age of marriage—Section 5 (iii).—It is provided as the third condition that “the bridegroom has completed the age of twentyone years and the bride the age of eighteen years at the time of the marriage”. But in case a marriage is solemnised in contravention of this provision it is neither void nor voidable but it would render the party, responsible for procuring the marriage, liable for punishment. In the case of. Duryodhan v. Bengabati, (AIR 1977 Orissa), it was laid down that contravention of section 5 (iii) does not vitiate the marriage and does not make it null and void under section 11. According to the Marriage Law (Amendment) Act, 1976, where the marriage of a girl has been effected before she attained the age of fifteen years and after attaining the age of fifteen years but before attaining the age of eighteen years, if she repudiates the marriage, the girl can obtain a decree of dissolution of marriage. This is an additional ground made available to a girl, where marriage has been solemnized below the age of fifteen years.

(4) Beyond prohibited degrees—Section 5 (iv).—The fourth condition lays down that “the parties are not within the degrees of prohibited relationship, unless the custom or usage governing each of them permits of marriage between the two”. The custom, however, must be reasonable and not opposed to decency or morality. [Balusami v. Balkrishna, A.I.R. 1957 Mad. 79]. Where the parties to marriage are related to each other within prohibited degrees the party responsible for procuring the marriage is liable for punishment under Section 18 of the Act.

(5) Beyond Sapinda Relationship—Section 5 (v).—This condition prohibits marriage between persons who are ‘Sapindas’ of each other. A marriage in contravention of this clause, i.e., section 5 (v) will be ‘void’ and may be so declared under section 11. The person contravening, the provisions of this clause will be liable to simple imprisonment extending to one month or to fine of one thousand rupees or to both under section 18 (b) of the Act. This restriction existed before the passing of the Act, the Hindu Marriage Validity Act, 1949 and the Hindu Marriage Disabilities Removal Act, 1946. Which had almost removed all other restrictions but had not removed this restriction of the ‘Sapinda’ relationship.