An Act to amend and codify the law relating to marriage among Hindus. BE it enacted by Parliament in the Sixth Year of the Republic of India as follows:-
Short title and extent.
This Act may be called the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.
It extends to the whole of India except the State of Jammu and Kashmir, and applies also to Hindus domiciled in the territories to which this Act extends who are outside the said territories.
Application of Act.
This Act applies-
to any person who is a Hindu by religion in any of its forms or developments, including a Virashaiva, a Lingayat or a follower of the Brahmo, Prarthana or Arya Samaj;
to any person who is a Buddhist, Jaina or Sikh by religion, and
to any other person domiciled in the territories to which this Act extends who is not a Muslim, Christian, Parsi or Jew by religion, unless it is proved that any such person would not have been governed by the Hindu law or by any custom or usage as part of that law in respect of any of the matters dealt with herein if this Act had not been passed.
Explanation: – The following persons are Hindus, Buddhists, Jainas or Sikhs by religion, as the case may be:-
any child, legitimate or illegitimate, both of whose parents are Hindus, Buddhists, Jains or Sikhs by religion;
any child, legitimate or illegitimate, one of whose parents is Hindu, Buddhist, Jaina or Sikh by religion and who is brought up as a member of the tribe, community, group or family to which such parent belongs or belonged ; and
any person who is a convert or reconvert to the Hindu, Buddhist, Jaina or Sikh religion.
Notwithstanding anything contained in sub-section (1), nothing contained in this Act shall apply to the members of any Scheduled Tribe within the meaning of clause (25) of article 366 of the Constitution unless the Central Government, by notification in the Official Gazette, otherwise directs.
The expression “Hindu” in any portion of this Act shall be construed as if it included a person who, though not a Hindu by religion is, nevertheless, a person to whom this Act applies by virtue of the provisions contained in this section.
In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires,-
the expressions “custom” and “usage” signify any rule which, having been continuously and uniformly observed for a long time, has obtained the force of law among Hindus in any local area, tribe, community, group or family:
Provided that the rule is certain and not unreasonable or opposed to public policy; and Provided further that in the case of a rule applicable only to a family it has not been discontinued by the family;
“district court” means, in any area for which there is a city civil court, that court, and in any other area the principal civil court of original jurisdiction, and includes any other civil court which may be specified by the State Government, by notification in the Official Gazette, as having jurisdiction in respect of the matters dealt with in this Act;
“full blood” and “half blood” – two persons are said to be related to each other by full blood when they are descended from a common ancestor by the same wife and by half blood when they are descended from a common ancestor but by different wives;
“uterine blood” – two persons are said to be related to each other by uterine blood when they are descended from a common ancestress but by different husbands.
Explanation -In clauses (c) and (d), “ancestor” includes the father and “ancestress” the mother;
(e) & (f)
“prescribed” means prescribed by rules made under this Act
“sapinda relationship” with reference to any person extends as far as the third generation (inclusive) in the line of ascent through the mother, and the fifth (inclusive) in the line of ascent through the father, the line being traced upwards in each case from the person concerned, who is to be counted as the first generation;
two persons are said to be “sapindas” of each other if one is a lineal ascendant of the other within the limits of sapinda relationship, or if they have a common lineal ascendant who is within the limits of sapinda relationship with reference to each of them;
“degrees of prohibited relationship” – two persons are said to be within the “degrees of prohibited relationship”-
if one is a lineal ascendant of the other; or
if one was the wife or husband of a lineal ascendant or descendant of the other; or
if one was the wife of the brother or of the father’s or mother’s brother or of the grandfather’s or grandmother’s brother of the other; or
if the two are brother and sister, uncle and niece, aunt and nephew, or children of brother and sister or of two brothers or of two sisters; Explanation – For the purposes of clauses (f) and (g), relationship includes-
relationship by half or uterine blood as well as by full blood;
illegitimate blood relationship as well as legitimate;
relationship by adoption as well as by blood; and all terms of relationship in those clauses shall be construed accordingly.
Overriding effect of Act.
Save as otherwise expressly provided in this Act,-
any text rule or interpretation of Hindu law or any custom or usage as part of that law in force immediately before the commencement of this Act shall cease to have effect with respect to any matter for which provision is made in this Act;
any other law in force immediately before the commencement of this Act shall cease to have effect in so far as it is inconsistent with any of the provisions contained in this Act.
Conditions for a Hindu marriage.
A marriage may be solemnized between any two Hindus, if the following conditions are fulfilled, namely:-
neither party has a spouse living at the time of the marriage
at the time of the marriage, neither party-
is incapable of giving a valid consent to it in consequence of unsoundness of mind; or
though capable of giving a valid consent, has been suffering from mental disorder of such a kind or to such an extent as to be unfit for marriage and the procreation of children; or
has been subject to recurrent attacks of insanity or epilepsy;
the bridegroom has completed the age of [twenty-one years] and the bride the age of [eighteen years] at the time of the marriage;
the parties are not within the degrees of prohibited relationship unless the custom or usage governing each of them permits of a marriage between the two;
the parties are not sapindas of each other, unless the custom or usage governing each of them permits of a marriage between the two.
Guardianship in marriage.
[Guardianship in marriage.] Rep. by Act 2 of 1978, s. 6 and Sch. (w.e.f. 1-10-1978).
Ceremonies for a Hindu marriage.
A Hindu marriage may be solemnized in accordance with the customary rites and ceremonies of either party thereto.
Where such rites and ceremonies include the saptapadi (that is, the taking of seven steps by the bridegroom and the bride jointly before the sacred fire), the marriage becomes complete and binding when the seventh step is taken.
Registration of Hindu marriages.
For the purpose of facilitating the proof of Hindu marriages, the State Government may make rules providing that the parties to any of such marriage may have the particulars relating to their marriage entered in such manner and subject to such conditions as may be prescribed in a Hindu Marriage Register kept for the purpose.
Notwithstanding any thing contained in sub-section (1), the State Government may, if it is of opinion that it is necessary or expedient so to do, provide that the entering of the particulars referred to in sub-section (1) shall be compulsory in the State or in any part thereof, whether in all cases or in such cases as may be specified, and where any such direction has been issued, any person contravening any rule made in this behalf shall be punishable with fine which may extend to twenty-five rupees.
All rules made under this section shall be laid before the State Legislature, as soon as may be, after they are made.
The Hindu Marriage Register shall at all reasonable times be open for inspection, and shall be admissible as evidence of the statements therein contained and certified extracts there from shall, on application, be given by the Registrar on payment to him of the prescribed fee.
Notwithstanding anything contained in this section, the validity of any Hindu marriage shall in no way be affected by the omission to make the entry,
RESTITUTION OF CONJUGAL RIGHTS AND JUDICIAL SEPARATION
Restitution of conjugal right.
When either the husband or the wife has, without reasonable excuse, withdrawn from the society of the other, the aggrieved party may apply, by petition to the district court, for restitution of conjugal rights land the court, on being satisfied of the truth of the statements made in such petition and that there is no legal ground why the application should not be granted, may decree restitution of conjugal rights accordingly.
Explanation- Where a question arises whether there has been reasonable excuse for withdrawal from the society, the burden of proving reasonable excuse shall be on the person who has withdrawn from the society.
Either patty to a marriage, whether solemnized before or after the commencement of this Act, may present a petition praying for a decree for judicial separation on any of the grounds specified in sub-section (1) of section 13, and in the case of a wife also on any of the grounds specified in sub-section (2) thereof, as grounds on which a petition for divorce might have been presented.
Where a decree for judicial separation has been passed, it shall no longer be obligatory for the petitioner to cohabit with the respondent, but the court may, on the application by petition of either party and on being satisfied of the truth of the statements made in such petition, rescind the decree if it considers it just and reasonable to do so.
NULLITY OF MARRIAGE AND DIVORCE
Any marriage solemnized after the commencement of this Act shall be null and void and may, on a petition presented by either party thereto against the other party, be so declared by a decree of nullity if it contravenes any one of the conditions specified in clauses (i), (iv) and (v) of section 5.
Any marriage solemnized, whether before or after the commencement of this Act, shall be voidable and may be annulled by a decree of nullity on any of the following grounds, namely:-
that the marriage has not been consummated owing to the impotence of the respondent; or
that the marriage is in contravention of the condition specified in clause (ii) of section 5; or
that the consent of the petitioner, or where the consent of the guardian in marriage of the petitioner 6[was required under section 5 as it stood immediately before the commencement of the Child Marriage Restraint (Amendment) Act, 1978], (2 of 1978) the consent of such guardian was obtained by force or by fraud as to the nature of the ceremony or as to any material fact or circumstances concerning the respondent; or
that the respondent was at the time of the marriage pregnant by some person other than the petitioner.
Notwithstanding anything contained in sub-section (1), no petition for annulling a marriage-
on the ground specified in clause (c) of sub-section (1) shall be entertained if-
the petition is presented more than one year after the force had ceased to operate or, as the case may be, the fraud had been discovered; or
the petitioner has, with his or her full consent, lived with the other party to the marriage as husband or wife-after the force had ceased to operate or, as the case may be, the fraud had been discovered;
on the ground specified in clause (d) of sub-section (1) shall be entertained unless the court is satisfied-
that the petitioner was at the time of the marriage ignorant of the facts alleged;
that proceedings have been instituted in the case of a marriage solemnized before the commencement of this Act within one year of such commencement and in the case of marriages solemnized after such commencement within one year from the date of the marriage; and
that marital intercourse with the consent of the petitioner has not taken place since the discovery by the petitioner of the existence of the said ground.
Any marriage solemnized, whether before or after the commencement of this Act, may, on a petition presented by either the husband or the wife, be dissolved by a decree of divorce on the ground that the other party-
has, after the solemnization of the marriage, had voluntary, sexual intercourse with any person other than his or her spouse; or
has, after the solemnization of the marriage, treated the petitioner with cruelty; or
has deserted the petitioner for a continuous period of not less than two years immediately preceding the presentation of the petition; or
has ceased to be a Hindu by conversion to another religion; or
has been incurably of unsound mind, or has been suffering continuously or intermittently from mental disorder of such a kind and to such an extent that the petitioner cannot reasonably be expected to live with the respondent. Explanation – In this clause,-
the expression “mental disorder” means mental illness, arrested or incomplete development of mind, psychopathic disorder or any other disorder or disability of mind and includes schizophrenia;
the expression “psychopathic disorder” means a persistent disorder or disability of mind (whether or not including sub-normality of intelligence) which results in abnormally aggressive or seriously irresponsible conduct on the part of the other party, and whether or not it require or is susceptible to medical treatment; or
has been suffering from a virulent and incurable from of leprosy; or
has been suffering from venereal disease in a communicable from; or
has renounced the world by entering any religious order; or
has not been heard of as being alive for a period of seven years or more by those persons who would naturally have heard of it, had that party been alive. Explanation- In this sub-section, the expression “desertion” means the desertion of the petitioner by the other party to the marriage without reasonable cause and without the consent or against the wish of such party, and includes the willful neglect of the petitioner by the other party to the marriage, and its grammatical variations and cognate expressions shall be construed accordingly.
Either party to a marriage, whether solemnized before or after the commencement of this Act, may also present a petition for the dissolution of the marriage by a decree of divorce on the ground-
that there has been no resumption of cohabitation as between the parties to the marriage for a period of [one year] or upwards after the passing of a decree for judicial separation in a proceeding to which they were parties; or
that there has been no restitution of conjugal rights as between the parties to the marriage for a period of [one year] or upwards after the passing of a decree for restitution of conjugal rights in a proceeding to which they were parties.
A wife may also present a petition for the dissolution of her marriage by a decree of divorce on the ground,-
in the case of any marriage solemnized before the commencement of this Act, that the husband had married again before such commencement or that any other wife of the husband married before such commencement was alive at the time of the solemnization of the marriage of the petitioner: Provided that in either case the other wife is alive at the time of the presentation of the petition; or
that the husband has, since the solemnization of the marriage, been guilty of rape, sodomy or 6[bestiality; or]
that in suit under section 18 of the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956, (78 of 1956.) or in a proceeding under section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (2 of 1974.) (or under the corresponding section 488 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898), (5 of 1898.) a decree or order, as the case may be, has been passed against the husband awarding maintenance to the wife notwithstanding that she was living apart and that since the passing of such decree or order, cohabitation between the parties has not been resumed for one year or upwards;
that her marriage (whether consummated or not) was Solemnized before she attained the age of fifteen years and she has repudiated the marriage after attaining that age but before attaining the age of eighteen years. Explanation -This clause applies whether the marriage was solemnized before or after the commencement of the Marriage Laws (Amendment) Act, 1976. (68 of 1976)
Alternate relief in divorce proceedings. In any proceeding under this Act, on a petition for dissolution of marriage by a decree of divorce, except in so far as the petition is founded on the grounds mentioned in clauses (ii), (vi) and (vii) of sub-section (1) of section 13, the court may, if it considers it just so to do having regard to the circumstances of the case, pass instead a decree for judicial separation.
Divorce by mutual consent.
Subject to the provisions of this Act a petition for dissolution of marriage by a decree of divorce may be presented to the district court by both the parties to a marriage together, whether such marriage was solemnized before or after the commencement of the Marriage Laws (Amendment) Act, 1976, (68 of 1976.) on the ground that they have been living separately for a period of one year or more, that they have not been able to live together and that thy have mutually agreed that the marriage should be dissolved.
On the motion of both the parties made not earlier than six months after the date of the presentation of the petition referred to in sub-section (1) and not later than eighteen months after the said date, if the petition is not withdrawn in the meantime, the court shall, on being satisfied, after hearing the parties and after making such inquiry as it thinks fit, that a marriage has been solemnized and that the averments in the petition are true, pass a decree of divorce declaring the marriage to be dissolved with effect from the date of the decree.
No petition for divorce to be presented within one year of marriage.
Provided that the court may, upon application made to it in accordance with such rules as may be made by the High Court in that behalf, allow a petition to be presented before one year has elapsed since the date of the marriage on the ground that the case is one of exceptional hardship to the petitioner or of exceptional depravity on the part of the respondent, but if it appears to the court at the hearing of the petition that the petitioner obtained leave to present the petition by any misrepresentation or concealment of the nature of the case, the court may, if it pronounces a decree, do so subject to the condition that the decree shall not have effect until after the expiry of one year from the date of the marriage or may dismiss the petition without prejudice to any petition which may be brought after the expiration of the said one year upon the same or substantially the same facts as those alleged in support of the petition so dismissed.
In disposing of any application under this section for leave to present a petition for divorce before the expiration of one year from the date of the marriage, the court shall have regard to the interests of any children of the marriage and to the question whether there is a reasonable probability of a reconciliation between the parties before the expiration of the said one year.
Divorced persons when may marry again.
When a marriage has been dissolved by a decree of divorce an either there is no right of appeal against the decree or, if there is such right of appeal, the time for appealing has expired without an appeal having been presented, or an appeal has been presented but has been dismissed it shall be lawful for either party to the marriage to marry again.
Legitimacy of children of void and voidable marriages.
Notwithstanding that a marriage is null and void under section 11, any child of such marriage who would have been legitimate if the marriage had been valid, shall be legitimate, whether such child is born before or after the commencement of the Marriage Laws (Amendment) Act, 1976, (68 of 1976) and whether or not a decree of nullity is granted in respect of that marriage under this Act and whether or not the marriage is held to be void otherwise than on a petition under this Act.
Where a decree of nullity is granted in respect of a voidable marriage under section 12, any child begotten or conceived before the decree is made, who would have been the legitimate child of the parties to the marriage if at the date of the decree it had been dissolved instead of being annulled, shall be deemed to be their legitimate child notwithstanding the decree of nullity.
Nothing contained in sub-section (1) or sub-section (2) shall be construed as conferring upon any child of a marriage which is null and void or which is annulled by a decree of nullity under section 12, any rights in or to the property of any person, other than the parents, in any case where, but for the passing of this Act, such child would have been incapable of possessing or acquiring any such rights by reason of his not being the legitimate child of his parents.
Punishment of bigamy.
Any marriage between two Hindus solemnized after the commencement of this Act is void if at the date of such marriage either party had a husband or wife living; and the provisions of sections 494 and 495 of the Indian Penal (45 of 1860) Code shall apply accordingly.
Punishment for contravention of certain other conditions for a Hindu marriage.
Every person who procures a marriage of himself or herself to be solemnized under this Act in contravention of the conditions specified in clauses (iii), (iv) and (v) of section 5 shall be punishable-
in the case of a contravention of the condition specified in clause (iii) of section 5, with simple imprisonment which may extend to fifteen days, or with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees, or with both;
in the case of a contravention of the condition specified in clause (iv) or clause (v) of section 5, with simple imprisonment which may extend to one month, or with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees, or with both;