The Allahabad High Court on Wednesday ruled that the requirement to give a public notice of intended marriage under the Special Marriage Act was not mandatory in Uttar Pradesh, Live Law reported.
Sections 6 and 7 of the Act require the couple to publish a public notice 30 days prior to the marriage to invite or entertain objections, according to Live Law.
However, while hearing a petition on Wednesday, the court 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.
“In case the same [publication of notice] on their simplistic reading are held mandatory... they would invade in the fundamental rights of liberty and privacy, including within its sphere freedom to choose for marriage without interference from state and non-state actors, of the persons concerned,” the court said, according to Bar and Bench.
The High Court said that it was up to the discretion of those getting married if they wanted to publish such a notice, and also mentioned that the concerned marriage officer shall not publish it or entertain objections if the couple did not want the declaration, reported Bar and Bench.
The 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 of a different religion, reported Live Law. In this case, the woman had converted to Hinduism before getting married, but her father was against the relationship and the petition sought her release from his custody, according to Bar and Bench.
However, after the court allowed the petition, the couple submitted that they could have solemnised their marriage under the Special Marriage Act, but the provision of 30 days’ notice would have invaded their privacy and caused social pressure and interference. As a result, they had to get married under Hindu personal laws. The court then took note that this matter was affecting a large number of people with similar concerns.
The ruling is significant as it comes amid a raging debate about the implementation of anti-conversion laws, especially in Uttar Pradesh. The law seeks to prohibits conversion of religion for marriage.
Earlier this month, the Supreme Court had agreed to examine the constitutional validity of anti-conversion laws enacted by UP and Uttarakhand, but refused to stay the controversial legislations in these states.