The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013

Right To Marry Is A Fundamental Human Right’: Madras HC Allows Couple To Solemnize Marriage Virtually

The Madras High Court helped a young couple by allowing a virtual marriage with the bride in India and the groom in the United States. The bride’s request for a marriage certificate was also granted by the court, which noted that the bride possessed a power of attorney that permitted her to sign the marriage certificate on behalf of both herself and the groom.

According to Justice GR Swaminathan of the Madurai bench, Section 12 of the Special Marriage Act of 1954 offers the couples the freedom to choose any method of marriage solemnization as long as it is accepted, acceptable, and does not go against public policy.

However, in this instance, the parties weren’t engaging in a proxy marriage. The bride and groom had travelled in from the United States to submit an application jointly under Section 5 of the Act. The groom’s father and mother objected after seeing the notice that had been issued. Later, the marriage officer concluded that the concerns were unjustified. The parties again physically addressed the respondent for solemnization after the required 30-day notice period. But for reasons that remain a mystery, the respondent officer chose not to assist in the marriage’s solemnization in his presence. Due to visa constraints, the groom had to return to the United States in the meantime. The court noted as a result:

“If the respondent had taken steps right then, the present situation would not have arisen at all. Just as an act of the court should not harm any part, the default committed by the authority ought not to result in prejudicial consequences.”

He also discussed an observation made recently by a division bench of the Supreme Court comprising Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice V. Ramasubramanian where they orally observed that “the Special Marriage Act was enacted in 1954 whereas the technology of computer and internet was introduced much later. Law has to march along with technology. Where there is a difficulty, the letter of law cannot be so rigid that it makes it impossible for the parties to follow”.

The court also took note of a recent decision by the Kerala High Court, where Justice PB Suresh Kumar declared that legislation must adapt to the demands of a changing society and that a pragmatic reading of the Information Technology Act must be applied.

The court noted that the right to marriage was a fundamental human right and that Sections 12 and 13 of the Special Marriage Act, 1954 should be interpreted in a way that upholds this right because the Division Bench of the Madras High Court had not issued a ruling to the contrary. Thus, the court approved the previous method of marriage solemnization.