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Judgments of Supreme Court of India and High Courts

M vs A on 23 March, 2018

$~
* IN THE HIGH COURT OF DELHI AT NEW DELHI

% Date of Decision: 23rd March, 2018

+ CM(M) 140/2017

M ….. Petitioner
Through: Mr. Saleem Ahmed, Mr. Shamim,
Ms. Charu Dalal and Mr. Ajay Pratap
Singh, Advs.
versus

A ….. Respondent
Through: Ms. Jhuma Bose, Adv. with
respondent in person.

CORAM:
HON’BLE MR. JUSTICE J.R. MIDHA

JUDGMENT

1. An important question of law has arisen for consideration in this case
as to whether the parties married under the Special Marriage Act, 1954 can
be permitted to challenge jurisdiction of the Family Court to entertain and
try a petition for dissolution of marriage under the Special Marriage Act.

2. The petitioner and the respondent got married under the Special
Marriage Act, 1954 on 20th August, 1998. On 29th September, 2014, the
respondent instituted a petition for divorce against the petitioner under
Section 27(1) (a) (b) and (d) of the Special Marriage Act, 1954. The
Certificate of Marriage under the Special Marriage Act was filed by the
respodnent along with the petition.

3. The petitioner filed the written statement dated 6th April, 2015 in
which he admitted that the marriage was solemnized under the Special

CM(M) 140/2017 Page 1 of 23
Marriage Act on 20th August, 1998. The petitioner further admitted that the
respondent was Hindu at the time of the marriage.

4. On 18th November, 2015, the petitioner filed an application under
Order 6 Rule 17 of the Code of Civil Procedure for amendment of the
written statement to challenge the maintainability of the divorce petition
under the Special Marriage Act on the ground that the parties are governed
by Muslim Personal Laws and the provisions of Special Marriage Act, 1954
were not applicable as the respondent had embraced Islam prior to the
solemnization of the marriage under the Special Marriage Act and the parties
entered into a nikah ceremony on 06th December, 1998 after their marriage
under the Special Marriage Act.

5. The learned Family Court dismissed the application vide order dated
02nd November, 2016 which is under challenge in this petition.

6. Learned counsel for the petitioner urged at the time of the hearing that
the amendment is necessary for determining the real issues between the
parties. It was submitted that the petitioner has challenged the jurisdiction of
the Family Court to entertain and try the divorce petition under the Special
Marriage Act on the ground that the parties subsequently performed nikah
ceremony on 06th December, 1998 and, therefore, the parties are governed
by the Muslim Personal Laws. It is further submitted that the respondent
embraced Islam prior to the marriage under the Special Marriage Act on 20 th
August, 1998.

7. Learned counsel for the respondent urged at the time of the hearing
that the parties got married under the Special Marriage Act on 20th August,
1998 and, therefore, the divorce petition is maintainable under the Special
Marriage Act. It is further submitted that the petitioner specifically admitted

CM(M) 140/2017 Page 2 of 23
in the written statement on oath that the respondent was Hindu at the time of
the filing of the divorce petition whereas in the amendment application, the
petitioner has made a contradictory statement that the respondent was a
Muslim prior to the solemnization of Marriage under the Special Marriage
Act i.e. on 20th August, 1998. It is submitted that the petitioner cannot be
permitted to set up a contradictory plea by amendment. It is further
submitted that the petitioner has raised a false claim before the Family Court
as well as this Court. The relevant portion of the divorce petition and the
written statement are reproduced hereunder:

Para 1 of the divorce petition
―1. That the marriage of the petitioner with the Respondent was
solemnized on 20.8.1998 under Special Marriages Act in Mumbai. (A
copy of the marriage certificate is annexed to this petition.)‖

Para 1 of the Written Statement
―1. That in reply to Para No.1 it is submitted that the marriage of
petitioner with the respondent was solemnized on 20/08/1998 under
Special Marriage Act in Mumbai is not denied, but it is submitted that
both the parties to the marriage were not of the same religion so as
certificate was obtained but later on respondent belonging to Muslim
religious he had to marry the petitioner according to Muslim Law
(sic) petitioner embraced Islam and is called by the name if AISHA.‖

8. Relevant provisions of Special Marriage Act, 1954
8.1. Statement of Objects and Reasons of Special Marriage Act, 1954
Special Marriage Act, 1954 is a successor legislation of Special
Marriage Act, 1872 which did not recognize inter-religion marriages.
Under Special Marriage Act, 1954 two persons belonging to different
religion can solemnize their marriage under the Act without
renouncing their religions. The object and reasons of the Special
Marriage Act, 1954 are reproduced hereunder:-

CM(M) 140/2017 Page 3 of 23

―This Bill revises and seeks to replace the Special Marriage Act of
1872 so as to provide a special form of marriage which can be taken
advantage of by any person in India and by all Indian nationals in
foreign countries irrespective of the faith which either party to the
marriage may profess. The parties may observe any ceremonies for
the solemnisation of their marriage, but certain formalities are
prescribed before the marriage can be registered by the Marriage
Officers. For the benefit of Indian citizens abroad, the Bill provides
for the appointment of Diplomatic and Consular Officers as Marriage
Officers for solemnising and registering marriages between citizens of
India in a foreign country.

2. Provision is also sought to be made for permitting persons who are
already married under other forms of marriage to register their
marriages under this Act and thereby avail themselves of these
provisions.

3. The bill is drafted generally on the lines of the existing Special
Marriage Act of 1872 and the notes on clauses attached hereto
explain some of the changes made in the Bill in greater detail.‖
(Emphasis Supplied)
8.2. Preamble of Special Marriage Act, 1954
―An Act to provide a special form of marriage in certain cases, for the
registration of such and certain other marriages and for divorce‖

8.3. Conditions relating to solemnization of special marriages
Section 4 of the Special Marriage Act prescribes the conditions
for solemnizing a special marriage. Section 4 starts with a non-
obstante clause that ―Notwithstanding anything contained in any
other law for the time being in force relating to solemnization of
marriages‖, a marriage between any two persons may be solemnized
under this Act, if at the time of the marriage, the conditions contained
in the said Section are fulfilled. None of these conditions require that
the man and woman must belong to same religion. Section 4 enables
two persons belonging to different or same religions to enter into a
valid marriage as long as they fulfill conditions contained in the said

CM(M) 140/2017 Page 4 of 23
Section such as neither party is having a spouse living, the parties are
not within the degrees of prohibited relationship unless the customs
governing at-least one of them permit such marriage, etc. Personal
religious laws of different religions would obviously not recognize
inter-religion marriages unless of-course one party to such marriage is
prepared to renounce his/her religion and accept conversion to the
religion of the spouse and such conversion is recognized by such
religion. Section 4 of Special Marriage Act is reproduced hereunder:-

―Section 4 – Conditions relating to solemnization of
special marriages.-

Notwithstanding anything contained in any other law for
the time being in force relating to the solemnization of
marriages, a marriage between any two persons may be
solemnized under this Act, if at the time of the marriage
the following conditions are fulfilled, namely:-

(a) neither party has a spouse living;

(b) neither party-

(i) is incapable of giving a valid consent to it in
consequence of unsoundness of mind; or

(ii) 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

(iii) has been subject to recurrent attacks of insanity;

(c) the male has completed the age of twenty-one years and
the female the age of eighteen years;

(d) the parties are not within the degrees of prohibited
relationship:-

Provided that where a custom governing at least one of the
parties permits of a marriage between them, such marriage

CM(M) 140/2017 Page 5 of 23
may be solemnized, notwithstanding that they are within
the degrees of prohibited relationship; and

(e) where the marriage is solemnized in the State of Jammu
and Kashmir, both parties are citizens of India domiciled
In the territories to which this Act extends.

Explanation.-In this section, ―custom‖, in relation to a
person belonging to any tribe, community, group or family,
means any rule which the State Government may, by
notification in the Official Gazette, specify in this behalf as
applicable to members of that tribe, community, group or
family:

Provided that no such notification shall be issued in
relation to the members of any tribe, community, group or
family, unless the State Government is satisfied-

(i) that such rule has been continuously and uniformly
observed for a long time among those members;

(ii) that such rule is certain and not unreasonable or
opposed to public policy; and

(iii) that such rule, if applicable only to a family, has not
been discontinued by the family.‖
(Emphasis Supplied)
8.4. Form of solemnization of marriage under Special Marriage Act
Section 12 of the Special Marriage Act provides that parties are at
liberty to choose any form of solemnization of marriage. The proviso to
Section 12 requires each party to say in the presence of the Marriage Officer
and three witnesses that he takes the other person as the lawful spouse.
Section 12 of the Special Marriage Act is reproduced hereunder:

“Section 12 – Place and form of solemnization –

(1) The marriage may be solemnized at the office of the Marriage
Officer, or at such other place within a reasonable distance therefrom
as the parties may desire, and upon such conditions and the payment
of such additional fees as may be prescribed.

CM(M) 140/2017 Page 6 of 23

(2) The marriage may be solemnized in any form which the parties
may choose to adopt:

Provided that it shall not be complete and binding on the parties
unless each party says to the other in the presence of the Marriage
Officer and the three witnesses and in any language understood by the
parties,‖I, (A), take thee (B), to be my lawful wife (or husband)‖.

8.5. Certificate of marriage under Special Marriage Act
Section 13 requires the Marriage Officer to enter a Certificate in the
prescribed form in the Marriage Certificate Book to be signed by the parties
and three witnesses. Section 13(2) of the Special Marriage Act provides that
a Certificate of Marriage shall be deemed to be conclusive evidence of the
fact that a marriage under this Act has been solemnized and all the
formalities respecting the signatures of witnesses have been complied with.
Section 13 of the Special Marriage Act is reproduced hereunder:

―Section 13 – Certificate of marriage –

(1) When the marriage has been solemnized, the Marriage Officer
shall enter a certificate thereof in the form specified in the Fourth
Schedule in a book to be kept by him for that purpose and to be called
the Marriage Certificate Book and such certificate shall be signed by
the parties to the marriage and the three witnesses.
(2) On a certificate being entered in the Marriage Certificate Book by
the Marriage Officer, the Certificate shall be deemed to be conclusive
evidence of the fact that a marriage under this Act has been
solemnized and that all formalities respecting the signatures of
witnesses have been complied with.

(Emphasis Supplied)
8.6. Registration of marriage solemnized under any other form
Section 15 of the Special Marriage Act provides for the registration of
marriage solemnized under other forms. Section 15 of the Special Marriage
Act is reproduced hereunder:

“Section 15 – Registration of marriages celebrated in other forms.–
Any marriage celebrated, whether before or after the commencement

CM(M) 140/2017 Page 7 of 23
of this Act, other than a marriage solemnized under the Special
Marriage Act, 1872 (3 of 1872) or under this Act, may be registered
under this Chapter by a Marriage Officer in the territories to which
this Act extends if the following conditions are fulfilled, namely–

(a) a ceremony of marriage has been performed between the parties
and they have been living together as husband and wife ever since;

(b) neither party has at the time of registration more than one spouse
living;

(c) neither party is an idiot or a lunatic at the time of registration;

(d) the parties have completed the age of twenty-one years at the time
of registration;

(e) the parties are not within the degrees of prohibited relationship:

Provided that in the case of a marriage celebrated before the
commencement of this Act, this condition shall be subject to any law,
custom or usage having the force of law governing each of them
which permits of a marriage between the two; and

(f) the parties have been residing within the district of the Marriage
Officer for a period of not less than thirty days immediately preceding
the date on which the application is made to him for registration of
the marriage.‖
8.7. Effect of registration of marriage
Section 18 of the Special Marriage Act provides that a marriage upon
being entered in the Marriage Certificate Book shall be deemed to be a
marriage solemnized under the Special Marriage Act and all children born
after the date of ceremony of marriage shall be deemed to be and always to
remain legitimate children of the parents. Section 18 of the Special
Marriage Act is reproduced hereunder:

―Section 18 – Effect of registration of marriage under this Chapter-

Subject to the provisions contained in sub-section (2) of section 24,
where a certificate of marriage has been finally entered in the
Marriage Certificate Book under this Chapter, the marriage shall, as
from the date of such entry, be deemed to be a marriage solemnized
under this Act, and all children born after the date of the ceremony of
marriage (whose names shall also be entered in the Marriage
Certificate Book) shall in all respects be deemed to be and always to

CM(M) 140/2017 Page 8 of 23
have been the legitimate children of their parents: Provided that
nothing contained in this section shall be construed as conferring
upon any such children any rights in or to the property of any person
other than their parents in any case where, but for the passing of this
Act, such children would have been incapable of possessing or
acquiring any such rights by reason of their not being the legitimate
children of their parents.‖
8.8. Dissolution of marriage under the Special Marriage Act
Chapter VI of the Special Marriage Act contains the provisions for
dissolution of marriage and Chapter VII contains the provisions relating to
the jurisdiction and procedure.

8.9. Deemed Severance from undivided family
Section 19 of the Special Marriage Act stipulates that a marriage
solemnized under this Act by any member of an undivided family who
professes the Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh or Jaina religion shall be deemed to
effect his severance from such family. Section 19 of the Special Marriage
Act is reproduced hereunder:

“Section 19 – Effect of marriage on member of undivided family –

The marriage solemnized under this Act of any member of an
undivided family who professes the Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh or Jaina
religion shall be deemed to effect his severance from such family.‖
8.10. Succession to property of parties married under the Special
Marriage Act

Chapter IV of the Special Marriage Act provides for the consequences
of marriage under the Special Marriage Act. Section 21 of the Special
Marriage Act provides that the succession to the property of any person
solemnized under the Special Marriage Act shall be governed by the Indian
Succession Act. Section 21 of the Special Marriage Act is reproduced
hereunder:

CM(M) 140/2017 Page 9 of 23
―Section 21 -Succession to property of parties married under Act –

Notwithstanding any restrictions contained in the Indian Succession
Act, 1925 (39 of 1925), with respect to its application to members of
certain communities, succession to the property of any person whose
marriage is solemnized under this Act and to the property of the issue
of such marriage shall be regulated by the provisions of the said Act
and for the purposes of this Act shall have effect as if Chapter III of
Part V (Special Rules for Parsi section that Intestates) had been
omitted therefrom.‖
8.11. Monogamy is the rule under the Special Marriage Act 1954.
8.11.1. Section 43 of the Act stipulates that a person already married
under any law, contracts a second marriage under this Act shall be deemed
to have committed an offence under Section 494 or Section 495 of the Indian
Penal Code, and the marriage so solemnized shall be void. Section 43 of the
Special Marriage Act is reproduced hereunder:

“Section 43 -Penalty on married person marrying again under this
Act –

Save as otherwise provided in Chapter III, every person who, being at
the time married, procures, a marriage of himself or herself to be
solemnized under this Act shall be deemed to have committed an
offence under Section 494 or Section 495 of the Indian Penal Code,
1860 (45 of 1860), as the case may be, and the marriage so
solemnized shall be void.‖
8.11.2. Section 44 of the Special Marriage Act stipulates that a person
married under this Act, contracts a second marriage shall punishable under
Section 494 and Section 495 of the Indian Penal Code and the marriage so
contracted shall be void. Section 44 of the Special Marriage Act is
reproduced hereunder:

“Section 44 – Punishment of bigamy –

Every person whose marriage is solemnized under this Act and who,
during the lifetime of his or her wife or husband, contracts any other
marriage shall be subject to the penalties provided in Section 494 and

CM(M) 140/2017 Page 10 of 23
Section 495 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (45 of 1860), for the
offence of marrying again during the lifetime of a husband or wife,
and the marriage so contracted shall be void.‖

9. Relevant Judgments
9.1. In Dr. Abdur Rahim Undre v. Padma Abdur Rahim Undre, AIR
1982 Bom 341, a Muslim boy married a Hindu girl on 6 th May, 1966 before
the Registrar and the marriage was duly registered on 6 th May, 1966 under
British Marriage Act, 1949. On 20th April, 1978, the husband gave talaq
which was challenged by his wife on the ground that the marriage in
England was performed according to the British Marriage Act, 1949; the
said marriage was a monogamous and secular in nature; the marriage
performed under the secular law of England cannot be dissolved under the
personal law as the parties are governed by Special Marriage Act, and
therefore, the alleged talaq was invalid. The Division Bench of Bombay
High Court observed that Special Marriage Act applies to all Indian
Communities irrespective of caste, creed or religion. The concept of
marriage under the said Act is monogamous dissoluble by the Court of
competent jurisdiction. Relevant portion of the said judgment is as under:

―10. So far as the marriage dated 6th May, 1966, solemnized in
England is concerned parties are not at issue. The defendant herself
has given evidence that marriage was solemnized and plaintiff also
admitted in his evidence that required ceremony and formalities
were completed and he accepted the defendant as his wife in the
presence of witnesses. Therefore, it must be held that marriage dated
6th of May, 1966 was performed in England according to the British
Marriage Act, 1949. This position is also clear from the entry of
marriage made pursuant to the provisions of Marriage Act, 1949.
………No civil marriage validly performed and solemnized,
according to any law in force can be treated as a religious marriage,
by introducing elements of formalities of personal law.

CM(M) 140/2017 Page 11 of 23

………The character of marriage remains unaffected by such
external factors. Because, a civil marriage validly performed, has an
overriding effect on all other religious forms of marriages.

11. When the parties have solemnized a legal and valid marriage as
per British Marriage Act, it is difficult to hold that the said marriage
should also be treated as Nikah Fasid. When the parties with open
eyes have chosen a specific form of marriage, it cannot be held that
they concurrently also intended to enter into another form of
marriage. To impute such an intention is contrary to well established
principles of justice, equity and good conscience.
…………If such a contention is accepted then even a secular and
monogamous marriage solemnised as per provisions of Special
Marriage Act, 1954 could be termed as ‗Nikah Fasid’ and a secular
and monogamous marriage between the two muslim or between two
muslim husband and non-muslim wife will become impossible even if
they desire to solemnise such a secular and monogamous marriage.

13. The special Marriage Act or Foreign Marriage Act do not
require continuance of the original religion as a condition for
getting relief of divorce.

xxx xxx xxx

22. …The Special Marriage Act 1954 applies to all citizens
irrespective of religion. ………Admittedly the marriage which was
solemnized in May 1966 in England under the British Marriage Act,
1949 was monogamous and secular in nature. ………Once it is held
that the marriage which took place in England in 1966 was secular
in the form and content and also monogamous and such a secular
law is also available in India in the form of Special Marriage Act.
1954 then in our view even the lex domicilli in case of such secular
marriage will be the Special Marriage Act and not the Personal Law
of the husband. This is more so when one of the parties belonged to
different religion and is not a muslim, After all there should be
harmony between different personal laws so that the parties can live
together.

23. It can safely be said that Special Marriage Act is in reality an
Indian Marriage Act, which applies to all Indian Communities
irrespective of caste, creed or religion. The concept of marriage
under the said Act, is monogamous, that is union for life, dissoluble
by judicial authorities. Under the said law all modern matrimonial

CM(M) 140/2017 Page 12 of 23
reliefs are made available to both the spouses in the event of break
down of marriage on an application to the Court of competent
jurisdiction. Even the religious marriages can be registered under
the said Act. On such registration the religious marriage can be
converted into secular marriage. In this, context it is also pertinent
to note that between 1954 to 1969 two Indian citizens domiciled in
India could have married under Special Marriage Act even outside
India. A marriage which is monogamous in form continues to be so,
where as original religious marriage can be converted into a secular
marriage. However, a secular marriage cannot be converted into
religious marriage. Therefore if there is in the field an Indian
enactment which is applicable to all the citizens of India irrespective
of their religion, then so far as secular marriages are concerned the
said law will become lex domicilli of India for the purposes of
matrimonial reliefs. Such an interpretation will be in tune
with Article 44 as well as the preamble of the Constitution. It cannot
also be forgotten that the establishment of a secular society is the
aim and goal of Indian Constitution. Therefore in the area and field
which is secular or nonreligious laws will have to be common for all
citizens of India, and that is what has been done, though to limited
extent by enacting Special Marriage Act at least leaves a choice
open which is available to all the citizens of India irrespective of
their caste, creed or religion.‖
(Emphasis Supplied)

9.2. In Minoti Anand v. Subhash Anand, 2011 (2) Mh.L.J. 812, the
parties solemnized their marriage under the Hindu Marriage Act but
subsequently registered the marriage under the Foreign Marriage Act. The
divorce petition filed under the Hindu Marriage Act was challenged on the
ground that the petition could be filed only under the Special Marriage Act.
The Bombay High Court held that the registration of a marriage under the
Foreign Marriage Act is conclusive and the provisions of the Special
Marriage Act would apply. Relevant portion of the said judgment is as
under:

CM(M) 140/2017 Page 13 of 23

―15. The essence of this very provision is that when one fact
becomes or is statutorily deemed to be conclusive evidence of
another fact, any other evidence, which would disprove such other
fact cannot be led.

16. In this case, the registration certificate of the marriage between
the parties is conclusive evidence of the fact that their marriage was
solemnised under the FMA and not any other Act. Therefore,
evidence with regard to the fact that their marriage was actually
solemnised under any other Act at any other time cannot be allowed
and cannot be seen. It may be that parties married for the purpose of
their own satisfaction or appeasement under different laws. In this
case, the husband has sought to claim that the parties had married
initially under the HMA as per Hindu Vedic rites and, therefore,
their marriage can be dissolved only under the HMA. However, their
marriage has not been registered under the HMA. Their marriage
has been registered under the FMA. Hence it must be taken to be
proved conclusively that it was solemnised under the FMA and not
HMA.

xxx xxx xxx

23. Once, therefore, it is seen that the marriage is solemnised
under the Act, there can be no debate that the SMA would apply.‖
(Emphasis Supplied)
9.3. In Anwar Ahmed vs. State of Uttar Pradesh, 1989 All LJ 303, the
applicant solemnized his first marriage under Mohammedan law and he
contracted his second marriage under Special Marriage Act. The Allahabad
High Court held that the second marriage under the Special Marriage Act is
an offence punishable under Section 494 IPC notwithstanding that the
Personal Law permits Muslim male to contract four marriages. Relevant
portion of the said judgment is as under:

―…Notwithstanding the fact that personal law permits a Muslim
male to contract four marriages, if a second marriage is contracted
under the Special Marriage Act 1954 vis-à-vis the fact that a muslim
male has a legally wedded wife who has been married to him under
the Mohammedan Law, Section 494, I.P.C. has to claw at the erring
male. The applicant cannot take refuge behind the fallacious

CM(M) 140/2017 Page 14 of 23
contention that he had contracted the second marriage with a
Muslim woman by virtue of the exceptions enshrined in
Mohammedan Law. Mohammedan Law does not claim precedence
over Special Marriage Act, 1954 keeping in view that the applicant
solemenised his first marriage under Mohammedan law and he
contracted his second marriage under Special Marriage Act. There
being no saving clause for the applicant to purge him of the charges
u/s 494, L.P.C. I feel that the applicant is liable to be punished u/s
494, I.P.C.‖

9.4. In S. Radhika Sameena vs. The S.H.O., Habeebnagar Police Station,
Hyderabad, 1997 (3) RCR (Criminal) 427, a Muslim boy and a Hindu girl
married under the Special Marriage Act. The wife subsequently converted
into Islam. The boy contracted a second marriage under Muslim Law. The
Division Bench of Andhra Pradesh High Court held that having married
under the Special Marriage Act, the second marriage is an offence
punishable under Section 494 or 495 of the Indian Penal Code. Relevant
portion of the said judgment is as under:

―10. …Having married under the Special Marriage Act, if a person
again contracts a second marriage, he shall be deemed to have
committed an offence under Section 494 or 495 IPC. Section 44 of
the Special Marriage Act lays down:

―44. Punishment for bigamy :- Every person whose marriage is
solemnized under this Act and who, during the lifetime of his or
her wife or husband, contracts any other marriage shall be
subject to the penalties provided in Sections 494 and 495 of the
Indian Penal Code, 1860 (45 of 1860), for the offence of
marrying again during the lifetime of a husband or wife, and
the marriage so contracted shall be void.”

…Likewise, the petitioner converting into Islam will not disentitle
her from prosecuting her husband for bigamy since their marriage
was under the Special Marriage Act but not under the Muslim
personal law.

CM(M) 140/2017 Page 15 of 23

12. …Dr. Jameeluddin, is liable to be prosecuted for the offence of
bigamy under Section 494 IPC. Dr. Jameeluddin, the fourth
respondent, cheated two innocent women, on his own admission.‖
(Emphasis Supplied)

9.5. In Jafar Abbas Rasoolmohammad Merchant v. State of Gujarat,
(2016) 57 (2) GLR 1529, the Gujarat High Court while dealing with case of
bigamy observed that :

―26.1 Special Marriage Act 1954: Monogamy is the rule under the
Special Marriage Act 1954. Among the conditions for solemnization
of a civil marriage spelt out in the Act the foremost is that ―neither
party has a spouse living‖-Section 4(a).

In respect of bigamy there are two different penal provisions under
the Act. If a person already married, under whatever law,
fraudulently contracts a civil marriage the provision of Section 43 of
the Act ……… will apply………

The other provision contained in Section 44………is meant for a
person married under the Special Marriage Act who contracts a
second marriage under any other law………

Chapter III of the Act, referred to in Section 43 reproduced above,
provides the facility of turning a pre-existing marriage solemnized as
per religious or customary rites into a civil marriage by registering
it under this Act. This facility is also available subject to the
condition that ―neither party has at the time of registration more
than one spouse living‖-Section 15(b). If a person having more than
one spouse living fraudulently registers either of his marriages under
this Act he will be guilty of the offence of knowingly making a false
statement punishable under Section 45 of the Act.

The anti-bigamy provisions of the Special Marriage Act apply to
every marriage contracted under its provisions irrespective of the
religion of the parties. A court has specifically held that if a Muslim
contracts a civil marriage under the Special Marriage Act instead of
his personal law the anti-bigamy provisions of the Act will apply to
him. See S. Radhika Sameena v. S.H.O., Habeeb Nagar Police
Station, Hyderabad 1997 CriLJ 1655 (AP).‖

9.6. In Sayeeda Shakur Khan vs. Sajid Phaniband, (2006) 5 Bom CR 7,

CM(M) 140/2017 Page 16 of 23
the Bombay High Court observed that succession to the property of a
Muslim married under Special Marriage Act who died intestate would be
governed by Special Marriage Act and not by Muslim personal Law.

Relevant portion of the said judgment is as under:

―9. …Section 18 of the Special Marriage Act, stipulates the effect of
a marriage under that Act. Where a marriage is registered under
the Special Marriages Act, it is deemed to be a marriage solemnized
under the Act. Section 21 of the Special Marriage Act reads as
under:

―21. Succession to property of parties married under the Act. –

Notwithstanding any restrictions contained in the Indian
Succession Act, 1925 (39 of 1925), with respect to its
application to members of certain communities, succession to
the property of any person whose marriage is solemnized under
this Act and to the property of the issue of such marriage shall
be regulated by the provisions of the said Act and for the
purposes of this Act shall have effect as if Chapter III of Part V
(Special Rules for Parsi section that intestate) had been omitted
therefrom.‖
…This Section provides that succession to the property of a person
whose marriage is solemnized under the Act would be regulated by
the provisions of the Indian Succession Act, 1925. …

13. …once a Muslim who is married under the Special Marriage
Act is treated on par with person of other communities married
under the Special Marriage Act, all the rigours of the Indian
Succession Act are applicable. …‖
(Emphasis Supplied)
9.7. In Grace Sheela Joseph vs. P.K. George Vaidian, AIR 1988 Ker 234,
the parties were married according to the rites, ceremony and customs of the
Church. The wife filed a petition for dissolution of marriage under Section
27 of Special Marriage Act. The maintainability of the petition was
challenged on the ground that their marriage was neither solemnized nor
registered under the Special Marriage Act. Accepting the said objection, the

CM(M) 140/2017 Page 17 of 23
Division Bench of Kerala High Court held as under:-

―These two provisions quoted above make it clear that apart from
those whose marriages have been performed under the provisions of
the Act of 1954 even those whose marriages have been solemnized
either before or after the commencement of the Act of 1954 in any
other form or under any other enactment may get their marriages
registered under Section 15 of the Act, provided the conditions of
that provision are satisfied and in such an event the marriage shall,
as from the date of entry in the “Marriage Certificate Book”, be
deemed to have been solemnized under the Act of 1954 on account of
the legal fiction introduced by Section 18. It is obvious that after a
marriage solemnized in a form other than the one contemplated by
the Act has been registered under Section 15 because of the deeming
clause in Section 18, parties thereto are entitled to take recourse
to Section 27 of the Act. The reason why Section 27 of the Act
unlike Sections 24 and 25 thereof does not contain the words “any
marriage solemnized under this Act” is not that Section 27 was
intended to apply to marriages performed under other enactments
but because the benefit of it was made available even to those whose
marriage though not solemnized under the Act was registered
under Section 15 and thus deemed to have been under the Act by
operation of Section 18. If it had been contemplated that parties who
have undergone marriage under any of the other enactments
mentioned above can sue for divorce under Section 27 of the Act of
1954, it was wholly redundant for the legislature to have
enacted Sections 15 and 18 of the Act as extracted above. Sections
15 and 18 to my mind, disclose an intention on the part of the
legislature that unless a marriage solemnized in a form other than
that prescribed by the Act of 1954 has been registered in accordance
with Section 15 of the Act, the parties to such a marriage will not be
governed by any of the provisions of the Act.”

9.8. In Suman Kundra v. Sanjeev Kundra, AIR 2015 Del 124, the parties
were married as per Hindu rites and ceremonies on 29th October, 1986.
However, their love marriage did not continue very long and the marriage
dissolved by a decree of divorce on 02nd June, 1988. The parties re-married
for the second time before the Marriage Officer under Special Marriage Act

CM(M) 140/2017 Page 18 of 23
on 03rd May, 1990. However, the parties could not reconcile their inherent
differences and the husband filed a petition for dissolution of marriage under
Section 13(1)(a) and (b) of Hindu Marriage Act on 21st July, 2005. The wife
challenged the maintainability of the petition. This Court held that since the
parties were married under the Special Marriage Act, their conduct with
regard to the grant of divorce or relationship would be covered under the
Special Marriage Act only.

10. Summary of Principles
10.1. The Special Marriage Act, 1954 provides a special form of marriage,
its registration and divorce. A marriage between any two persons belonging
to any religion or creed may be solemnized under this Act. Being a secular
Act, it plays a key role in liberating individuals from the traditional
requirements of marriage. It provides for a civil law of marriage that would
enable individuals to get married outside of their respective community
mandates.

10.2. The Special Marriage Act 1954 is not concerned with the religion of
the parties to an intended marriage. Under the Act any person, whichever
religion he or she professes, may marry either within his or her community
or in a community other than his or her own, provided that the intended
marriage in either case is in accord with the conditions for marriage laid
down in the Act.

10.3. No religious rituals or ceremonies are required from the marriage to
be completed under the Special Marriage Act. It is up to the parties to decide
whether they want to do marriage rituals or not. The marriage solemnized
under Special Marriage Act is registered and a Certificate of Marriage is
given to the parties. The Certificate shall be signed by the parties to the

CM(M) 140/2017 Page 19 of 23
marriage and witnesses which is deemed to be conclusive evidence of the
fact that a marriage under this Act has been solemnized.
10.4. The Special Marriage Act provides an option of turning an existing
religious marriage solemnized in any other form under any other law into a
civil marriage by registering it under its provisions, provided that it is in
accord with the condition for marriage laid down under the Act. This
provision of subsequent registration enables parties to avail secular and
uniform remedies despite the solemnization of marriage through
performance of religious ceremonies under one’s own personal laws. This
aids them in overcoming the constraints or discrimination faced in their own
personal laws.

10.5. The unique feature of the Special Marriage Act, 1954 is compulsory
registration of marriage under the Act which protects the interest of the
parties and the children born out of wedlock.

10.6. The Registration Certificate of the marriage between the parties is
conclusive evidence of the fact that their marriage was solemnised under the
Special Marriage Act. Therefore, evidence with regard to the fact that their
marriage was actually solemnised under any other Act at any other time,
cannot be allowed. There can be no issue that the Special Marriage Act
would apply.

10.7. When a person solemnizes marriage under this law then the marriage
is not governed by personal laws but by Special Marriage Act. The rights
and duties arising out of marriage are governed by the Special Marriage Act
and the succession is governed by Indian Succession Act, 1925, and not by
the personal laws.

10.8. Having married under the Special Marriage Act, if a person contracts

CM(M) 140/2017 Page 20 of 23
a second marriage, he shall be deemed to have committed an offence under
Section 494 or 495 IPC.

11. Findings
11.1. In the present case, both the parties appeared before the Marriage
Officer for Mumbai on 20th August, 1998 and made a declaration required
under Section 11 of the Special Marriage Act and the marriage under Special
Marriage Act was solemnized between them in the presence of the three
witnesses and the Marriage Officer. The Marriage Officer issued a
Certificate of Marriage under Section 13 of the Special Marriage Act which
is on record of the Family Court. The Certificate of Marriage dated 20 th
August, 1998 is reproduced hereunder:

―CERTIFICATE OF MARRIAGE
(See Section 13)

I Shri S.B. Koli, Marriage Officer, Bombay hereby certify that on the
20th day of Aug 1998 Mohammed Atique and Aprajita Sharma
appeared before me and that each of them. In my presence and in the
presence of three witnesses who have signed hereunder, made the
declaration required by Section 11 and that a marriage under this Act
as solemnized between them in my presence at my office.

Witnesses: Sd/- S.B. Koli 20/8
(1) Maya B. Jdnani (Adv.) Marriage Officer for Mumbai
53A Mittal Tower
Nariman Pt. Sd/- M. Atique 20.8.98
Bombay – 21 Bridegroom
(2) Santosh H. Divakar
3A Girjabai Chawl Sd/-Aparajita Sharma 20.8.98
Navenad Bride
Mulund (E)
Mumbai 81 Three Witness
(3) Manisha Sharma
Roop Mahal ‗B’ 4th Rd. 1) Sd/- Maya B. Jdnani 20.8.98
Khar (W) 2) Sd/- S.H. Divakar 20.8.98

CM(M) 140/2017 Page 21 of 23
Mum:52 3) Sd/- M. Sharmar 20.8.98

Dated the 20th day of Aug 1998‖

11.2. Under Section 13(2), the aforesaid Certificate dated 20th August, 1998
is deemed to be conclusive evidence of the fact that marriage under the Act
had been solemnized and that all formalities respecting the signatures of
witnesses have been complied with.

11.3. The Certificate of Marriage issued by the Marriage Officer under the
Special Marriage Act is a conclusive proof of their valid marriage under the
Special Marriage Act and the petitioner cannot be permitted to challenge the
jurisdiction of the Family Court to entertain and try the petition for divorce
instituted by the respondent. The petitioner’s challenge to the jurisdiction of
the learned Family Court to entertain and try the petition under the Special
Marriage Act is barred by law.

11.4. The learned Family Court has clear jurisdiction to entertain and try the
respondent’s petition as both the parties are governed by the Special
Marriage Act.

11.5. The petitioner’s contention that the respondent embraced Islam prior
to 20th August, 1998 is contradictory and mutually destructive to the
petitioner’s admission in the written statement that the respondent was
Hindu at the time of the marriage on 20th August, 1998. The petitioner has
neither withdrawn the admission made in the written statement nor given
any justification for setting up a contradictory plea. In that view of the
matter, the respondent cannot be permitted to set up a contradictory and
mutually destructive plea in the written statement by way of an amendment.
11.6. Even assuming that the respondent had embraced Islam prior to 20th

CM(M) 140/2017 Page 22 of 23
August, 1998, it would not in any manner, effect the jurisdiction of the
learned Family Court to entertain and try the petition for divorce under the
Special Marriage Act.

12. Conclusion
12.1. There is no merit whatsoever in this petition. This petition is gross
abuse and misuse of the process of law and is, therefore, dismissed with cost
of Rs.50,000/- to be paid by the petitioner to the respondent within four
weeks.

12.2. With respect to the show cause notice dated 31st October, 2017 issued
by this Court, the Family Court shall consider the same at the time of final
hearing of the petition for divorce.

12.3. The learned Family Court is directed to expedite the hearing and shall
endeavor to decide the same within one year.

13. The parties shall appear before the learned Family Court on 16 th April,
2018 at 2.30 PM.

14. The record of the Family Court be returned back forthwith.

15. Copy of this judgment be given dasti to learned counsels for the
parties under signatures of the Court Master.

MARCH 23, 2018 J.R. MIDHA
dk/rsk/ak (JUDGE)

CM(M) 140/2017 Page 23 of 23

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