LAW COMMISSION: REGISTER MARRIAGES & DIVORCES IRRESPECTIVE OF RELIGION

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A law to register all marriages and divorces, irrespective of religion, has been proposed by the Law Commission of India, the Law and Justice Ministry.

‘There is a great diversity in respect of laws for registration of marriages,’ the Ministry noted in a statement, adding that the Commission took its ace from a 32 month old Supreme Court judgement.

The apex court judgement of February 14, 2006-- Seema vs. Ashwani Kumar-- held that all marriages be compulsorily registered.

The Commission’s 211th Report on Laws on Registration of Marriage and Divorce - A Proposal for Consolidation and Reform was recently forwarded by Chairman A R Lakshmanan to Law and Justice Minister Hans Raj Bhardwaj.

It has recommended enacting a Marriage and Divorce Registration Act to apply nationwide and to all citizens irrespective of their religion and personal law-- without exceptions or exemptions, the Ministry said.

It has held that the proposed law deal only with registration of marriages and divorces and not with any substantive aspect now governed by various matrimonial laws-- general and community-- specific.

It has suggested repealing the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act, 1886 and renaming Births and Deaths Registration Act, 1969 as Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act.

It also suggested making a provision that officials working and records maintained under the former Act be deemed to be working and maintained under the latter Act.

The Ministry said the recommendations-- if accepted and implemented-- ‘will hopefully’ address the concern behind the Supreme Court’s repeated directive to State governments to ensure compulsory registration of all marriages in the country.

India’s Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act, 1886 requires respective Registrars to register Births and Deaths but makes ‘no provision for registration of marriages,’ the Ministry said.

The Ministry dubbed the title of the Central Act ‘somewhat misleading.’ It des require Registrar-General of Births, Deaths and Marriages to keep a proper Index of the certified copies of Marriage Registers received under the provisions of related laws.

The laws: the Special Marriage Act, 1954, the Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872 and the Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act, 1936.

Laws on Marriage Registration in such states as Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal require marriage registration but do not in any way affect the validity of marriage over failure to register.

The administrative machinery for registration of marriages is regulated in different States by different laws.

Most States regulate it by one of three central laws-- the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act, 1886, the Registration Act, 1908 and Registration of Births and Deaths Act, 1969. Some by a local law, and others by a combination's of both, the Ministry said.

‘This creates a lot of confusion with registration officials as well as people wanting or required to register their marriages,’ it said.

Also ‘a tremendous diversity of laws relating to registration of marriages (makes) it complicated and confusing,’ it went on.

The story is not much different for registration of divorces.

Laws for Muslims and Parsis provide for registration of divorce but provisions of State laws are dormant and hardly in practice and thus leave abundant room for misuse, causing great hardship to women, it said.

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