The Supreme Court recently observed that appropriate rites and ceremonies must be performed for a Hindu marriage to be valid under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, reported Live Law on Tuesday.

The court passed the judgement on April 19 in a petition by a woman seeking the transfer of divorce proceedings. Amid the divorce proceedings, the woman and her husband had jointly applied for a declaration that their marriage was not valid as they had not performed any customs and rites.

A bench of Justices BV Nagarathna and Augustine George Masih held that the marriage of the petitioners was not valid since it was not solemnised, reported Live Law.

“Where a Hindu marriage is not performed in accordance with the applicable rites or ceremonies such as saptapadi [the rite where a couple walks around a fire seven times] when included, the marriage will not be construed as a Hindu marriage,” the judgement said.

The bench also held that the registration of a Hindu marriage under Section 8 of the Hindu Marriage Act only facilitates proof of the marriage but does not provide it legitimacy.

“Unless the parties have undergone such ceremony, there would be no Hindu marriage according to Section 7 of the Act and a mere issuance of a certificate by an entity in the absence of the requisite ceremonies having been performed, would neither confirm any marital status to the parties nor establish a marriage under Hindu law,” said the bench.

Section 7 of the Act states: “A Hindu marriage may be solemnized in accordance with the customary rites and ceremonies of either party thereto.” It also says that a marriage becomes “complete and binding” with the seventh step around a fire.

The court said that a Hindu marriage is a “sacrament which has to be accorded its status as an institution of great value”. It urged young men and women to “think deeply” about this before entering the institution of marriage.

The judgement said that a wedding is not an event for “song and dance, wining and dining” or an occasion to demand dowry. “A marriage is not a commercial transaction,” said the court.

The court criticised the practice of couples acquiring a marriage certificate without conducting ceremonies.

“As we have already noted, any such registration of a marriage before the registrar of marriages and a certificate being issued thereafter would not confirm that the parties have ‘solemnised’ a Hindu marriage,” it said.

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