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Cabinet Okays Registration of Religion-Neutral Marriages Plan

A proposal to enable registration of religion-neutral marriages was on April 12, 2012 approved by the union Cabinet.

The proposal has been brought in the form of amendment to the Registration of Births and Deaths Act, 1969.

The proposed Bill will save the women from unnecessary harassment in matrimonial and maintenance cases, an official release said. It will also provide evidentiary value in the matters of custody of children, right of children born from the wedlock and the age of the persons married, it said.

There have been demands by minorities, including Sikhs, for such a provision as weddings are currently registered under Hindu Marriage Act and they are shown as Hindus in official documents. Besides Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists are also issued certificates under this Act.

According to Law Ministry officials, making registration of marriages religion-neutral would help couples who face social and community pressures for having married according to their wishes.

The present system of issuing religion-based certificates will continue.

The Law Ministry, which had mooted the proposal, says that since the infrastructure to register births and deaths is already in place, registration of marriages could be handled with ease by civic authorities.

While marriages of Sikhs along with those of Buddhists and Jains are currently registered under the Hindu Marriage Act, Muslims, Parsis, Christians and Jews have separate Acts for registration of their marriages.

Necessary provisions have also been made to avoid duplication of registration of marriages both under the proposed central legislation and state laws.

The registration of marriages under the proposed amendment would, however, not affect any right recognised or acquired by any party to marriage under any law, custom or usage.

With this decision, the existing administrative mechanisms will be able to carry out such registration of marriages in accordance with the specified procedures and be able to maintain necessary records and statistics for registration of marriages also.

In February 2006, the Supreme Court had directed the states and the central government that registration of marriages of all persons who are citizens of India and belonging to various religious denominations should be made compulsory in their respective states where they are solemnised

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