Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Make registration of marriage and divorce a must: Law Commission

Make registration of marriage and divorce a must: Law Commission

Legal Correspondent

“Law should be made applicable to whole of India and to all citizens”

Laws on marriage registration in some States faulty and ineffective

Absence of registration of divorces causes hardship to women


New Delhi: The Law Commission has recommended the enactment of a “Marriage and Divorce Registration Act” to be made applicable to the whole of India and to all citizens irrespective of their religion and personal law and without any exception or exemption.

In its 211th report submitted to the Centre, the commission, headed by Justice A.R. Lakshmanan, said: “The law should deal only with registration of marriages and divorces and not with any substantive aspect now governed by various matrimonial laws — general and community-specific.”

“Accordingly, the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act, 1886 be repealed and Births and Deaths Registration Act, 1969 be re-named as “Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act” with a provision that officials working and records maintained under the former Act shall be deemed to be working and maintained under the latter Act.”

Confusion

The Commission, which took up this issue suo motu, said: “In very few States all marriages, irrespective of the law under which these may have been solemnised, have to be compulsorily registered. The majority of States have not enacted any general law on marriage registration applicable to all communities. In those States where there are laws for compulsory registration of all marriages, such laws are faulty and ineffective. This creates a lot of confusion with registration officials as well as people wanting or required to register their marriages.”

“Under the Constitution, family matters are in the concurrent jurisdiction of the Centre and States. Parliamentary legislation on compulsory registration of marriages is, therefore, not only possible but also highly desirable. This will bring country-wide uniformity in the substantive law relating to marriage registration and will be helpful in effectively achieving the desired goal. Rules under the proposed Act may be made by the State governments, and this will take care of the local social variations.”

The panel said:

“Similarly, for registration of divorces, the laws which provide for any kind of registration of divorce are that of Muslims and Parsis. All other marriage registration laws do not provide for registration of divorces although it is a socially beneficial proposition.

“Registration of out-of-court divorces among the Hindus, the Buddhists, the Jains and the Sikhs — which the Hindu Marriage Act 1955 recognises — is extremely desirable. In the Muslim society, there is a system of private registration of marriages by the kazis, which needs to be streamlined and linked with registration of marriage with State Registry. Absence of registration of divorces in a community whose personal law allows out-of-court divorce leaves abundant room for misuse of law and often causes great hardship to women.”

Inhibition

The Commission said, “There is a great inhibition against marriage registration which needs to be effectively removed. Advantages of registration of marriage and disadvantages of non-registration are not specified in any law or policy document and therefore there is little clarity in the mind of the people in this respect. The proposed law should also provide that no judicial relief will be granted in a disputed matter if the concerned marriage or divorce is not duly registered under its provisions.”

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