Special Marriage Act, 1954

The Allahabad High Court has made a ruling that people marrying under the Special Marriage Act, 1954, can choose not to publicize their union with a notice 30 days in advance. The court has strike down the provisions of the Special Marriage Act, 1954 which made it mandatory for couples to publish a 30-day public notice about their intent to marry. This provision of the act was problematic for the inter-faith couple as it was exposing them to vigilante and familial violence. Thus, the court’s ruling has come with a great relief for interfaith couples.

What does the court say?

  • The court has unambiguously underlined the primacy of autonomy of the individuals.
  • The judgement has come at the time when the anti-conversion ordinances in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh have been licensed. These ordinances are being tagged as state’s intrusions on inter-personal relationships in the name of “love jihad”.
  • So, the single-judge bench of the high court has ruled that compulsory notice that invites scrutiny and objections is against “the fundamental rights of liberty and privacy, within its sphere of freedom to marry without any interference from state and non-state actors, of the persons concerned.”


The court has made this ruling on the plea of a Muslim woman. The Muslim women was converted to Hinduism to marry. The couple filed the plea as they saw the notice period under the Special Marriage Act as an invasion of their privacy. The ruling was read in the context of the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020.

Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020

The ordinance was enacted in November 2020. This ordinance targets inter-faith marriages, in particular. As per the law, conversion of religion by marriage is unlawful. The law mandates for a 60-day notice to the District Magistrate. It also requires the Magistrate to conduct a police inquiry so as to find out the explicit Under the law, there have been 54 arrests till date by the U.P. police.

Law Commission of India report

The ruling of the Allahabad bench is in line with the recommendation of the Law Commission. The Law Commission of India report had recommended in 2012 that there is a need to “keep a check on high-handed and unwarranted interference by caste assemblies in Sagotra, inter-caste or inter-religious marriages”.

Special Marriage Act, 1954

It is an act of the Parliament that was enacted in order to provide a special form of marriage for the people of India and all Indian nationals in foreign countries. The act provides for special form of marriage irrespective of the religion or faith of the people who wants to marry each other. The marriages under the Special Marriage Act are not governed by personal laws.

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