Essentials of a Valid Christian Marriage, Rules and procedure for its solemnization
Essentials of a Valid Christian Marriage, Rules and procedure for its solemnization

Essentials of a Valid Christian Marriage, Rules and procedure for its solemnization

 

Synopsis

  1. Introduction
  2. Essentials of valid Marriage

III.  Persons authorized to solemnize Marriage

  1. Rules and procedure for solemnization of Marriage

 

  1. Introduction

Marriage is a universal social institution which controls and regulates the lives of humans. In India, marriage law and procedure varies according to the community to which the couple belongs. The Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872 (hereinafter referred as the “Act“), which was enacted during the British era, governs the marriage of Indian Christians.

 

This article discusses various key aspects of a Christian marriage, which are regulated by the Act, including essentials of a valid marriage, persons authorised to solemnize marriages and procedure for solemnization of Christian marriages.

 

  1. Essentials of valid Marriage

Section 4 of Act specifies that any marriage between Christians, including a marriage where one of the parties is a Christian, must be solemnized according to the provisions of the Act else it shall be considered as void. Thus, a marriage must satisfy the conditions for a valid marriage specified under the Act and must also be solemnized as per the procedure given in the Act.

 

Section 60 of the Act specifies the following conditions for a valid Christian marriage:

  1. the groom must not be below 21 years of age and the bride must not be below 18 years of age;
  2. neither of the parties must have a spouse still living at the time of marriage;
  3. the marriage ceremony must take place in presence of the person licensed under section 9 and atleast two credible witnesses.

 

A forth condition for validity is prescribed under section 88 of the Act which states that nothing in the Act shall validate any marriage which the personal law of either party forbids the concerned party from entering into. Thus, for instance, inter-caste marriage between a Christian and a person of any other religion will be invalid if the personal law governing the other person prohibits marriage with a Christian.

 

In Gnanasoundari vs. Nallathambi and Others, AIR 1945 Mad 516, the Madras High Court clarified that section 88 of the Act shall cover prohibitions based on blood relations and affinity.

Section 60 refers to section 9 of the Act which authorises the State government to grant license to any Christian to grant certificates of marriage for Christian marriages.

 

III. Persons authorized to solemnize Marriage

Section 5 of the Act provides that a Christian marriage may be solemnized by any of the following persons:

  • any person who has received Episcopal ordination in case of which the marriage must be solemnized according to the rules, rites and customs of the church of which he/she is a minister;
  • a clergyman of the Church of Scotland in case of which the marriage must be solemnized according to the rules, rites and ceremonies of the Church of Scotland;
  • any Minister of Religion licensed under the Act to solemnize marriage;
  • by, on in presence of, a Marriage Registrar, appointed under the Act or,
  • any person licensed, under section 9 of the Act, to grant certificate of marriages to Christians.

 

In case where the marriage is being solemnized by a Minister of Religion or a Marriage Registrar, the Act requires certain procedure formalities to be followed such as giving notice of intended marriage and publication of the notice which is followed by declaration by the parties and registration of marriage. However, in case the marriage is being solemnized by a person licensed under section 9 of the Act, the solemnization process is simpler as no procedural formalities are necessary. In such case, the parties are only required to say to each other, in the presence of the licensed person and two credible witnesses, the following or similar words: “I call upon these persons here present to witness that I, A.B., in the presence of Almighty God, and in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, do take thee, C.D., to be my lawful wedded wife [or husband]“.

 

  1. Rules and procedure for solemnization of Marriage

The Act makes certain provisions regulating the procedure for solemnization of a Christian marriage which are as follows:

 

Time for solemnizing marriage

Section 10 of the Act provides that a Christian marriage can be solemnized only between 6 am and 7 pm except in the following cases:

  • marriage being solemnized by a clergyman of Church of England under a special license which authorizes the clergyman to solemnize at any hour other than between 6 am and 7 pm;
  • marriage being solemnized by a clergyman of Church of Rome under a general or special license received from the Roman Catholic Bishop of the Diocese or Vicariate in which such marriage is so solemnized;
  • marriage being solemnized by a clergyman of the Church of Scotland according to the Church’s rules, rites and ceremonies.

 

Place of solemnization  

Section 11 of the Act permits a clergyman of the Church of England to solemnize a marriage only at a church where worship is generally held according to the forms of Church of England unless there is no church within 5 miles from the shortest distance from such place or unless a special license permits the clergyman to solemnize the marriage at any other place.

 

Solemnization of Marriage

Sections 12 to 26 of the Act deal with the process for solemnization of marriage by a Minister of Religion licensed to solemnize marriages under the Act. The process for such solemnization is as follows:

 

  • Notice of marriageSection 12 of the Act requires either party to give written notice, in the form contained in First Schedule of the Act, to the concerned Minister by whom the parties want the marriage to be solemnized. The notice must contain name, surname, profession and residence of both parties, time during which concerned party has lived in their dwelling place and the church/private dwelling where marriage has to be solemnized.

 

  • Publication of notice – In case the parties want their marriage to be solemnized in a church, Section 13 requires the concerned Minister to get the notice (received under section 12) affixed in some conspicuous part of the concerned church provided that the Minister is entitled to officiate the marriage. In case where the marriage is intended to be solemnized in a private dwelling, Section 14 requires the Minister to forward the notice to Marriage Registrar of the concerned district for affixation in some conspicuous part of his/her office.

 

In case where either party to the marriage is a minor, Section 15 requires the Minister to send a copy of the notice (received under section 12) to the Marriage Registrar or Senior Marriage Registrar of concerned district.

 

  • Procedure of receipt of notice – Upon receipt of any notice under section 14 or 15, Section 16 of the Act requires the Marriage Registrar to affix the notice in some conspicuous place in his office. On the other hand, the Senior Marriage Registrar is required to forward the notice to each Marriage Registrar in the same district for such affixation.

 

  • DeclarationSection 18 of the Act requires either party to the marriage to appear personally before the Minister and declare that there is no impediment of kindred or affinity to the marriage and necessary consents, mandated by law, have been obtained in case where either or both parties are minors. Section 19 requires consent to be taken, for the marriage, from the father and if the father is dead, from the guardian of the minor. If there is no guardian, the minor’s mother may give consent to the marriage.

 

  • Issue of certificateSection 17 of the Act states that after notice under section 12 has been given to the Minister by either party to the marriage and after either party has made the declaration required under section 18, the Minister shall issue a certificate to the parties indicating the giving of the notice and making of the declaration. The certificate can be issued only after expiry of 4 days from the receipt of notice under section 12 provided that its issue is not forbidden and the parties have proved to the Minister’s satisfaction that there is no lawful impediment to issue the certificate. Section 20 permits all persons, who are authorized to give consent under section 19, to prohibit issue of certificate under section 17 by giving written notice to the Minister. Section 21 states that if a notice has been given under section 20, the Minister cannot issue a certificate unless he/she is satisfied, upon examination, that the person prohibiting the marriage is not authorized to do so.

 

  • Issue of certificate to Indian Christians – Section 3 of the Act defines Indian Christians to mean Christian descendants of natives of India. Section 23 of the Act states that when any Indian Christian gives notice to Minister under section 12 or applies for issuing a certificate under section 17, the Minister shall, before issuing the certificate, ascertain whether the concerned Indian Christian is cognizant of the purport and effect of the notice/certificate.

 

  • Form of certificateSection 24 of the Act requires the certificate issued under section 17 to be in the form contained in Second Schedule to the Act.

 

  • Solemnization of marriageSection 25 of the Act states that after issue of certificate under section 17, the Minister is entitled to solemnize the marriage between the parties, in the presence of two witnesses, according to such form or ceremony as the Minister may see fit to adopt. Section 26 of the Act states that if the marriage is not solemnized within 2 months from the date of issuance of certificate under section 17, the certificate shall become void and the parties would not be entitled to get the marriage solemnized without getting a fresh certificate issued under section 17.

 

While the aforesaid procedure is applicable where the marriage is solemnized by a Minister of Religion, the process for solemnization by a Marriage Registrar is similar and has been provided under Part V of the Act.

 

Part VI of the Act deals with marriage of Indian Christians which can be solemnized by a person licensed under section 9 without following procedural formalities but simply by getting the parties to say the words quoted on page 2 of this article to each other in presence of 2 credible witnesses. Section 61 of the Act allows the person authorized under section 9 to issue certificate of marriage to the parties after the marriage has been solemnized.

 

Section 27 of the Act mandates registration of all marriages solemnized under the Act except marriages solemnized under Part V (by a Marriage Registrar) or Part VI (by a person licensed under section 9) of the Act.

 

The Act does not specify any grounds for dissolution of marriage. The dissolution of a Christian marriage is governed by the provisions of Indian Divorce Act, 1869.

 

 

 

 

 

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