The Madhya Pradesh High Court earlier this week denied police protection to an interfaith couple who wanted to get married under the Special Marriage Act.

Justice Gurpal Singh Ahluwalia, in an order passed on May 27, said that the union of a Muslim man and Hindu woman was not a valid marriage as per Islamic personal law, even if it was registered under the Special Marriage Act.

The High Court was hearing petitions by a Muslim man and Hindu woman who approached the Marriage Officer under the Special Marriage Act, but could not wed each other because of objections from the woman’s family. Both the man and woman said that they wanted to continue professing their own religions.

The petitioners sought police protection so that they could register their union under the Special Marriage Act. However, the woman’s family members argued that if the marriage took place, they would be boycotted by society.

The family also alleged that the woman took jewellery and cash from her home when she left to marry her Muslim partner.

The couple’s lawyer argued that the marriage would not be an irregular one as it would be registered under the Special Marriage Act, which would override personal law. The court, however, did not accept this contention.

Justice Ahluwalia noted that marriages under the Special Marriage Act could not be challenged because mandatory religious rituals were not performed. “But marriage under Special Marriage Act would not legalise the marriage which otherwise is prohibited under personal law,” the judge held.

The court noted that Section 4 of the law allows marriages to be performed only if the couple does not fall within the definition of a prohibited relationship. The Special Marriage Act, however, defines prohibited relationships in terms of blood relations, not in terms of personal law.

The court noted that neither did the couple want to stay in a live-in relationship, nor did the woman want to convert to Islam. “Under these circumstances, this Court is of considered opinion that no case is made out warranting interference,” the judge said.