Indian Christian Marriage Act of 1872 governs all Christian marriages in India. According to the Christian Marriage Act, such marriages can only be solemnized by a minister or a priest of a church. After the marriage, the priest may register the marriage and issue a marriage certificate, thereby endorsing the marriage. A marriage, performed earlier by a Priest or Minister of the Church, can also be enrolled in the register of the Registrar of Marriages. It is compulsory for each party involved in the marriage to make an application to the concerned authority located within its place of residence, in order to get a marriage registered.
Previously, marriages could be performed without any official registration. Now the Supreme Court of India has ordered the compulsory registration of all marriages in India, irrespective of the religion.
Requirements for Christian Marriage Registration
In order to constitute a valid marriage under the Indian Christian Marriage Act, it is a requirement that either one or both parties are Christians. Unless one of the parties to the marriage is governed by its own personal law forbidding such a marriage on the grounds of prohibited steps of the relationship, the marriage will be considered null and void, or redundant under the Act. To constitute a legitimate marriage under the Act, the following factors have to be fulfilled:
- The bridegroom must not be under the age of twenty-one and the bride must not be under the age of eighteen, respectively;
- Consent from both parties must be free, voluntary and not obtained by misrepresentation of facts, compulsion or undue influence;
- Neither party should have a living spouse at the time of the marriage;
- Marriage must be performed in the presence of at least two reliable witnesses, by a person licensed to grant a certificate to the marriage, such as a priest or minister in a church.
Conditions Required for Performance of a Marriage by a Marriage Registrar
The guidelines specified below have to be followed for the performance of the marriage by the Marriage Registrar, appointed under the Act. They are as listed below:
(a) Notice of Intended Marriage to the Registrar: A written application or notice is to be completed by either party to the marriage who are currently residing in the same area as the Marriage Registrar, in order to notify the concerned authority of their intention to get married. In the event that both the bride an groom reside in different locales, each party will have to draw up a distinct notice in writing to the Marriage Registrar located within their areas of residence, respectively. The written application is then recorded in the official Marriage Notebook and is pasted in a distinct, noticeable area in the office of the Registrar.
(b) Making a Pledge before the Registrar: In order to acquire the Certificate of Notice, either one party to the marriage must make an appearance before the Marriage Registrar in order to pledge that:
- there is no obstacle ,natural predisposition or other legitimate obstruction to the marriage;
- the place of residence of both the parties is within the locale of the marriage registrar;
In the event where one of the parties is a minor, the consent of one of the persons mentioned below is of utmost importance, in order to perform the marriage:
- Father of the minor, if alive and not deceased, or,
- The Guardian of the minor or if no guardian, then,
- Consent of the mother is required (only if there is no person authorized to give such consent residing in India)
- Issuing of the Certificate of Notice after the Pledge: The Registrar has the power to issue the Certificate of Notice only once the pledge has been taken before the Registrar by either one of the parties and a duration of four days has passed after the notice of intended marriage has been received. The information contained in the above mentioned Certificate of Notice, contains the location of the Church or Chapel, where the marriage rituals are expected to be performed. The certificate will not be issued in the event that it is stopped by anyone demonstrating grounds why the document ought not to be issued. Once the Registrar issues the Certificate of Notice, it becomes obligatory to perform the marriage within two months from the date of issuance. In the event that the marriage is not solemnized within the stipulated time period, the certificate becomes redundant and a fresh certificate will have to be issued.
Persons authorized to perform the marriage under the act
Under Section 5 of the Act, the following persons are eligible to perform the marriage:
- By persons appointed by the Bishop of the church where the marriage is taking place, provided that such marriages are performed as per the customs, rituals and regulations of that church;
- By any priest registered under the Church of Scotland, provided that such marriages are performed according to the customs, rules and regulations administered by the Church of Scotland;
- By any Minister of Religion licensed under this Act to solemnize marriages;
- By any person who is appointed by, or is in the presence of, the Marriage registrar under the Act;
- By any person qualified to grant certificates of marriage between Indian Christians, under this Act
If a marriage is performed by a person who is not authorized under the act to perform it, such a marriage would be deemed null and void.
Performance of the Marriage under the Act
A Christian Marriage that is performed between the parties to the marriage must adhere to the rituals considered essential and appropriate by the Minister or Priest performing the marriage. The marriage rituals also require the mandatory presence of two reliable witnesses apart from the minister or the priest performing the marriage. If a marriage has not been performed within two months after the issuance of the certificate of notice, such a marriage cannot be performed after the lapse of the two month period, and a fresh certificate of notice would have to be applied for in order to solemnize the marriage.
Time and Place for the Performance of the Marriage
The Act, clearly specifies the ‘time’ and the ‘place’ for the performance of marriage. Time for performing of marriage rituals has been fixed to six in the morning and seven in the evening and the place where the marriage is to be performed is a Church. The Clergy of the Church, under special exemptions, are given the flexibility of the time and place for performing the marriage.
Registration of Christian Marriage
An application for registration of marriage is made by the parties to the concerned authority in whose Jurisdiction either party has been residing. The Registrar who was present and performed the marriage of the couple then registers the marriage in the Marriage Register. The acknowledgement slip of the registration is signed by both the parties to the marriage and by their witnesses. The slip is then attached to the register as proof that the marriage was registered. These acknowledgement slips are transferred at the end of each month to the Registrar General of Births, Deaths and Marriages. Indian Christian marriages can further be endorsed under a special provision with only a month’s prior notice, under the Special Marriage Act of 1954. This Act provides for solemnization of a marriage as well as registration by a Marriage Officer/Registrar between people of any religion such as Jewish, Hindu, Christian and so on.
Documents Required for the purpose of Registering the Marriage under the Act
- Complete application form;
- Passport Size photographs,
- The Marriage Certificate issued by the Minister or the Priest who performed the wedding,
- Two photographs of the wedding rituals along with the wedding invite;
- Residence and age proof of either party to the marriage;
- A document (affidavit) certifying the mental and marital status of both parties.