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Hindu Marriage Act 1955

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Hindu Marriage Act 1955


Legal commentary


A commentary explaining the important facets of the Hindu Marriage Act passed by the Indian parliament in May, 1955.


Paras Diwan


The International and Comparative Law Quarterly, Vol. 6, No. 2, (Apr., 1957), pp. 263- 272


Cambridge University Press on behalf of the British Institute of International and Comparative Law.




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Main Features

Providing Monogamy and Divorce as legal option for all Hindus.
Notion of Marriage as not merely Sacramental but a Contract as well.
Notions of gotras, castes and religion not valid.

Pre-requisites For Marriage

Neither are "idiotic" or lunatic at time of marriage.
Neither has spouse living at time of marriage.
Bride has completed the age of 15 and Groom the age of 18 at the time of marriage.
They are not within degrees of "prohibited relationship" or "sapinda"s.
Consent of guardian if the age is below 16.

Conditions of "Nullity": Void and Voidable Marriage

Breach of Pt.3 and Pt. 5 above demands a punishment (upto 15 days imprisonment or Rs. 1000 fine or both) but the marriage doesn't become a nullity.
Breach of 4 can possibly lead to nullity and definitely punishment. (upto 1 months imprisonment or upto Rs. 1000 fine or both)
Distinction between Void and Voidable Marriages in keeping with English laws.
Marriages solemnised after commencement of Act can be declared Void if Pt. 2 and 4 are violated.
Marriages solemnised before or after commencement of Act are Voidable if
a) either party to marriage is impotent at the time and continues to be so when the petition is filed
b) either party was lunatic at the time of marriage
c) if respondent was pregnant at the time of marriage bysome person other than the petitioner.
d) if consent of spouse or legal guardian was obtained by fraud or force.

Nullity on ground c) can be granted only if proved that the petitioner was ignorant of the fact and the petition was filed within one year of commencement of act (for pre-act marriages) or one year of marriage (for post-act marriages) and matrimonial intercourse on consent has not taken place since the discovery of pregnancy.

Nullity on ground d) can be obtained only if proved that the petition was submitted within one year of discovery of fraud or ceasure of
force and the petitioner did not consent to live in conjugality after ceasure of force.

6. No Marriage solemnised before or after the enactment of the act can be lawfully dissolved unless a decree to that effect is passed
by an authorised court.

7. Petition for nullity can only be submitted by either parties to marriage. If the parties choose not to present a petition, the marriage will
remain in force

Procedure, Rituals and Registration of Marriage

A Hindu Marriage can be solemnised with "customary" rites and ceremonies of either party. If the custom includes Saptapadi, the marriage is solemnised, "complete and binding" after the seventh step.

Provides for registration, though it is not necessary and non-registration does not lead to invalidity.

Empowers state governments to frame rules leading to registration and they have power to impose fines on failure to supply necessary particulars.

Conditions for Divorce

Adultery of respondent
Respondent ceases to be Hindu by conversion to some other religion.

Incurably unsound mind of respondent for 3 uninterrupted years just preceding the time of petition.

Incurable and virulent leprosy for 3 uninterrupted years just preceding the time of petition
Venereal disease in communicable form for 3 uninterrupted years just preceding the time of petition.
Renouncement of world by entering a religious order.
Respondent not known to be alive for 7 uninterrupted years just preceding the time of petition to those people who would "naturally" know
Not resuming marital intercourse for a period of 2 years and upwards after the decree of judicial separation has been passed.
Failure to comply with the decree of restitution of conjugal rights for a period of 2 years and upwards after the decree has been passed.
For wife, additonal conditions are,

10. Other living wife or wives at the time of solemnisation of marriage or husband taking another wife at a later period.

11. After solemnisation, the husband has been guilty of rape, sodomy or bestiality.

Also, The Fair Trial Rule suggests (another offspring of British Law),

No marriage can be dissolved unless 3 years have elapsed since the day of solemnisation of the marriage though the court is empowered to dissolve earlier in cases of exceptional hardship.

Conditions for Grant of Judicial Separation

Desertion for a period of two years or more.
Venereal diseases in the Respondent not contracted from the petitioner
Habitually unsound mind from the date of marriage

Original Format




Paras Diwan, "Hindu Marriage Act 1955," in Law and the Image, Item #21, http://lawimage.medialabju.org/items/show/21 (accessed April 25, 2019).


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