Supreme Court: Appropriate rites and ceremonies mandatory for valid Hindu marriage

A bench comprising Justices BV Nagarathna and Augustine George Masih held that the marriage of the petitioners was not valid as it was not solemnized in accordance with required customs and rituals. “Where a Hindu marriage is not performed in accordance with the applicable rites or ceremonies such as saptapadi (the rite where a couple walks around a fire seven times), the marriage will not be construed as a Hindu marriage,” the judgement stated.

The Supreme Court has observed that performing appropriate rites and ceremonies is essential for a Hindu marriage to be considered valid under the Hindu Marriage Act, of 1955. The apex court made these crucial observations in a recent judgement passed on April 19 while hearing a petition seeking transfer of divorce proceedings.

A bench comprising Justices BV Nagarathna and Augustine George Masih held that the marriage of the petitioners was not valid as it was not solemnized in accordance with required customs and rituals. “Where a Hindu marriage is not performed in accordance with the applicable rites or ceremonies such as saptapadi (the rite where a couple walks around a fire seven times), the marriage will not be construed as a Hindu marriage,” the judgement stated.

The court underscored that the registration of a Hindu marriage under Section 8 of the Hindu Marriage Act merely facilitates proof of the marriage but does not confer legitimacy upon it. “Unless the parties have undergone such ceremony, there would be no Hindu marriage according to Section 7 of the Act, and a mere issuance of a certificate by an entity in the absence of the requisite ceremonies having been performed would neither confirm any marital status to the parties nor establish a marriage under Hindu law,” the bench said.

Section 7 of the Act clearly states that “A Hindu marriage may be solemnized in accordance with the customary rites and ceremonies of either party thereto.” It further mentions that marriage becomes “complete and binding” with the seventh circumambulation of the sacred fire.

Emphasizing the sanctity of Hindu marriages, the court observed that it is “a sacrament which has to be accorded its status as an institution of great value.” It urged young men and women to “think deeply” before entering this revered institution, stressing that a wedding is not merely an occasion for “song and dance, wining and dining” or an event to demand dowry. “A marriage is not a commercial transaction,” the court asserted.

The apex court also criticized the prevalent practice of couples acquiring marriage certificates without conducting the requisite ceremonies. “Any such registration of a marriage before the registrar of marriages and a certificate being issued thereafter would not confirm that the parties have ‘solemnized’ a Hindu marriage,” the judgement stated.