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  • Writer's pictureLAWGIC STRATUM

Special Marriage Act, 1954 – An Overview

Author: Pranesh Raj S


Marriage is a substantial part of our life. The word Marriage has synonyms such as union, alliance, coupling, and affiliation. In my view, a marriage is a legal or formal contract between two people that approves their union legally, emotionally, and economically with equal amounts of respect, freedom, and duty to take care of each other at all and every part of their life after the contract is made. In short, marriage is the promotion of the relation between a man and woman; a man and man; women and women as husband and wife; husband and husband; wife and wife respectively. Though I mentioned marriage as a legal or formal contract Indian Contract Act, 1872 cannot be used here. There are special laws created for marriage in India of which:

  1. The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 and

  2. Special Marriage Act, 1954

are the prominent ones.


The difference between the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 and the Special Marriages Act, 1954 make them unique in their own ways some of such differences are:

  1. The Hindu Marriage Act can only be applicable for Hindus of India meanwhile The Special Marriage Act can be used for any Indian citizen irrespective of their religion, caste, race, etc….

  2. The Hindu Marriage Act provides a chance to register an already solemnized marriage but not solemnization before the registrar on the spot. In the Special Marriage Act a couple can both Solemnize and register the marriage on spot in front of a marriage officer.

  3. In Hindu Marriage Act the registration of marriage is optional and is not done by most people. Marriages held under the Special Marriage Act must be registered within a time frame after marriage under the provisions of the act.

  4. Traditional rituals are necessary under the Hindu Marriage Act (with exceptions) and it is not necessary in the case of the Special Marriage Act.


Special Marriage Act, 1954 is an act created for registered marriages for Indian citizens residing both in India and outside India, irrespective of their religion, caste, etc… The act was created as a piece of legislation proposed during the 19th century. The act gives immunity to personal laws after being solemnized by it.

The special marriages act of 1954 has three main objectives and they are:

  1. To provide a mode for the registration of special marriages.

  2. To provide a special and unique form of marriage solemnization attached with registration in certain cases.

  3. To provide rules and formalities to be followed for divorce.


Henry Sumner Maine was the one who first introduced a civil marriage law named Act III of 1872, which has given rights for people to choose their partner irrespective of any facts like religion, caste, culture, etc….

Some of the salient features in this act are:

Section 4 – Conditions for a valid marriage:

1) A person can’t marry someone who has a living spouse, is incapable of giving valid consent for marriage, suffering from mental disorder to an extent to be unfit for marriage or has recurrent attacks of epilepsy or insanity.

2) If the male has completed 21 years of age with female being of age 18, without any kind of prohibited relationship then they can marry.

Section 16 – Procedure for solemnization and registration of marriage:

1) No religious ceremony is required and is just needed to be informed to the marriage officer appointed by the government for solemnization and registration of marriage.

2) A public notice for objection is displayed in public by the marriage officer for 30 days. If there is no objection then the marriage can be done.

Section 24 – Void Marriages:

1) The marriage registered under the act can be null and void by a decree of nullity if any conditions mentioned for a valid marriage under this act arenot fulfilled or if the respondent is impotent at the time of marriage and at the time of institution of the suit.

Section 26 – Legitimacy of children:

2) The act says that the legitimacy status of children can be nullified by passing a decree if the children were begotten before the marriage.

3) But the children from such marriages shall only inherit their parent’s property.

Section 27 – Ground for divorce under this act:

Some of the grounds discussed for divorce are:

i. Adultery

ii. Cruelty

iii. Desertion ( for a continuous period of not less than two years)

iv. Respondent being sentenced to imprisonment for more than 7 years.

v. Respondent suffering from an incurable form of leprosy.

vi. Respondent being suffering from unsound mind.

vii. Respondent–Husband being convicted of crimes like rape, outraging the modesty of women.

Section 21 – Succession Rights

1) The succession rights of people under this act are governed by the Indian Succession Act.

These are some of the salient features of the Special Marriages Act, 1954.

Even after marriage the people of different religion shall remain and practice their religion under the rights provided by the Special Marriages Act. If any one of them is forced to change their religion or practice then such an act can be considered a crime and is also punishable under the law.


Even though the act was introduced in 1954 India still has a thorough and rigid caste and religion system for decades. Inter religious marriages are still considered a taboo in our country. With the situation we are facing now against corona our survival is not even guaranteed yet people still keep sticking to such useless ideas like caste and religion forgetting the fact that we all are humans created by nature. The names of gods may differ in each religion but the ideas they preach (i.e., to spread humanity and peace in their name) shall never change. We must understand that religion denotes the way a person prays and caste were once used to mention the work they do and the race was used to identify the region they were born with the culture they follow in order to serve the guests of other regions and not to dominate them or to consider such facts as their marks from their birth in order to discriminate them. To harass a person based on such ideas like caste, religion and race are the cruel practice that changes us from humans to animals.When such differences between people fade away then these acts would have no need and peace shall prosper within humanity.


1) Professional’s Marriage and Divorce Laws. (Bare Act)

2) Salient Features of Special Marriage Act, 1954 –

3)Difference between Hindu Marriage Act and Special Marriage Act –

Edited by Sathyanarayanan Iyer .G, Associate editor, Lawgic Stratum.

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