Marriages without priest cannot be declared as illegal: HC

Chennai,November 10:Nearly 50 years after Tamil Nadu government legalised "self-respect" marriages which are conducted without a priest the Madras High Court has upheld the amendment made in the year 1968 to simplify Hindu marriages.

Dismissing a PIL filed by A Asuvathaman, an advocate, against the amendment to the Hindu Marriage Act, the first bench comprising Chief Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice T S Sivagnanam in its recent order said "the Hindu religion by itself is pluralist in character and thus various forms of marriage have traditionally existed depending on the area and the custom prevalent therein."

"Section 7-A provides for a particular kind of marriage "Suyamariyathai" marriages among two Hindus.

It has also stood the test of time now for nearly half a century", the judges said.

"It was the state of Tamil Nadu which legalised the Suyamariyathai marriages, which simplified conducting of marriages without Brahmin priests and the couple going seven steps around the fire 47 years ago", the judges said.

Asuvathaman contended that "Saptapadi" (seven steps going around the fire by the couple as part of marriage ritual) was an important ritual. The amendment had attempted to bring in the philosophy of a political movement".

He submitted that "Suyamariuathai" weddings are not in conformity with the customary rites and ceremonies and hence the amendment providing for them should be declared unconstitutional.

It was DMK founder C N. Annadurai as Chief Minister in 1967 signed the first file legalising self-respect marriages.

In the year 1968, it became an Act by introduction of section 7A amendment to Hindu Marriages Act.

Declining to declare the amendment as illegal and unconstitutional, the HC judges, quoting a Supreme Court judgement, in its order said that "the amendment inserted by Tamil Nadu applies to any marriage between two Hindus solemnised in the presence of relatives, friends or other persons.

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