A sub-divisional magistrate has prima facie committed contempt of court by sending notices to a couple who sought to marry under the Special Marriage Act, the Delhi High Court has observed, Live Law reported on Thursday.

In his judgement on August 10, Justice Najmi Waziri cited a 2009 order by the Delhi High Court directing marriage officers not to send such notices to the homes of Special Marriage Act applicants. The law provides for interfaith couples to get married.

Waziri said the 2009 order observed that sending such notices could jeopardise the applicants’ intentions of getting married and become a cause for “threat to their lives or limb” due to interference from their parents.

He issued a contempt notice against the sub-divisional magistrate and asked him to respond within two weeks. The matter will next be heard on September 8.

In this case, the Muslim woman and her Hindu partner decided to get married last year and applied for registration of their marriage. However, the sub-divisional magistrate sent a notice to the couple’s homes informing their families about their intention to get married.

The woman’s father and brother then detained her against her will, The Indian Express reported.

Her partner filed a habeas corpus petition before the High Court. The court counselled the woman’s family but she refused to return to her parents’ home. The couple got married in May 2020 under police protection.

While hearing a similar case in January, the Allahabad High Court had ruled that the requirement to give a public notice of intended marriage under the Special Marriage Act was not mandatory in Uttar Pradesh.

Sections 6 and 7 of the Special Marriage Act require the couple to publish a public notice 30 days prior to the marriage to invite or entertain objections.

However, the High Court had noted that mandatory publication of such a notice would interfere with the fundamental rights of liberty and privacy and the freedom to marry without the interference of the state. The court said it was up to the discretion of those getting married if they wanted to publish such a notice. The judgement also mentioned that the concerned marriage officer shall not publish a notice or entertain objections if the couple did not want the declaration.

In that case too, the High Court was hearing a habeas corpus petition alleging that an adult woman had been detained against her will for wanting to marry her partner, who was from a different religion.