Thwarting a union (Communalism Combat)
“It is important to mention that any unmarried, sane, consenting adults (where the bridegroom is over 21 years of age and the bride is over 18 and who are unrelated within the degrees of prohibited relationship), irrespective of faith or caste, can get married under the Special Marriage Act. The couple from Rajasthan, who come from an inter-caste background, could have done so too. So why did they decide to have a religious marriage ceremony? It was almost certainly because they wanted to make sure their parents did not receive any intimation about their marriage through the official notice – as would any couple who anticipated threats to their life and liberty. [...]
“Barring Delhi, all other states follow the dangerous practice of sending a copy of the notice of intended marriage to the permanent addresses of the marrying couples [in non-religious ceremonies under the Special Marriages Act]. Thanks to the initiatives of the Delhi government and a landmark judgement by Justice S. Ravindra Bhat of the Delhi high court in April 2009, the practice of sending notices to the homes of couples desirous of solemnising their marriage under the Special Marriage Act was curbed. However, it has not been completely discontinued, as the officials fear the wrath of the parents of marrying couples.
“The administrations in Ghaziabad, Noida and Gurgaon in the states of Uttar Pradesh and Haryana are not even willing to bear the expenses of dispatching notices and they insist that couples provide pre-addressed, pre-stamped envelopes beforehand. Couples also have to publish an advertisement of their proposed marriage in a leading newspaper and submit a copy of the published advertisement to the marriage officer’s office. In Gurgaon, the concerned deputy commissioner’s office has taken the pains to add a column for specifying the applicants’ religion in the ‘Intent to Marry’ form and an additional point about the citizenship of the applicants in the declaration form. I wonder why religion should be mentioned at all in the one legally recognised marriage procedure intended to be outside the realms of faith or caste.
“The Gurgaon office also requires that couples provide envelopes bearing the names and designations of the marriage officers in districts where the applicants permanently reside. I can only speculate on the amount of homework a couple has to do before they file their application. A marriage cannot be solemnised under the Special Marriage Act without receipt of a verification report from the concerned tehsildar; and the report will not, of course, be issued as a matter of routine. The couple has to take great pains to ensure that the report is in fact released by the tehsildar’s office.
“Looking at just a few of the requirements essential for marriage under the Special Marriage Act, one can safely say that no couple would choose to go through the traumatic experience on its own. So those couples who are still determined to get married under the Special Marriage Act are forced to engage an advocate and shell out a large sum of money for his/her fees. Unfortunately, the majority of couples cannot afford the services of an advocate and thus, confronted by various hostile and complex sociopolitical pressures, they are forced to opt for a religious form of marriage.”