The Supreme Court urged young men and women to think deeply about the institution of marriage even before they enter upon it.

The Court remarked that a Hindu marriage is a ‘samskara’ having great value in Indian society and is not an event for ‘song and dance’ and ‘wining and dining’.

The Court was deciding a transfer petition preferred under Section 25 of the Civil Procedure Code (CPC) by a woman (wife) seeking transfer of divorce petition.

The two-Judge Bench of Justice B.V. Nagarathna and Justice Augustine George Masih observed, “… a Hindu marriage is a samskara and a sacrament which has to be accorded its status as an institution of great value in Indian society. Children born out of a valid Hindu marriage are legitimate and therefore they have full rights in law. This is not an occasion for us to discuss about the vulnerability of illegitimate children born outside wedlock who yearn for status equal to legitimate children in society. Therefore, we urge young men and women to think deeply about the institution of marriage even before they enter upon it and as to how sacred the said institution is, in Indian society. A marriage is not an event for ‘song and dance’ and ‘wining and dining’ or an occasion to demand and exchange dowry and gifts by undue pressure leading to possible initiation of criminal proceedings thereafter.”

The Bench added that a marriage is not a commercial transaction, rather a solemn foundational event celebrated so as to establish a relationship between a man and a woman who acquire the status of a husband and wife for an evolving family in future which is a basic unit of Indian society.

Advocate Dhruv Gupta represented the petitioner while AOR Rukhsana Choudhury represented the respondent.

In this case, the petitioner wife sought transfer of divorce petition under Section 13(l)(ia) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 (HMA) pending before the Principal Judge, Family Court, Muzaffarpur, Bihar to Principal Judge, Family Court, Ranchi, Jharkhand. During the pendency of this petition, the parties decided to resolve the dispute by filing a joint application under Article 142 of the Constitution seeking certain reliefs. The petitioner (wife) and the respondent (husband) were trained commercial pilots and got married to each other in 2021 by obtaining a marriage certificate from Vadik Jankalyan Samiti. The respective families of parties fixed the date for performing the marriage ceremony as per Hindu rites and customs in 2022.

Meanwhile, the parties lived separately but nevertheless, differences ignited between them. As per the wife, there was a demand for dowry made by the husband’s family. She filed an FIR under Sections 498A, 420, 506, 509, and 34 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Sections 3 and 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 (DP Act) against the husband and his family members alleging harassment. Thereafter, the husband approached the Family Court, Bihar by filing a divorce petition and being aggrieved by this, the wife filed the transfer petition before the Apex Court.

The Supreme Court in view of the above facts noted, “… requisite ceremonies for the solemnisation of the Hindu marriage must be in accordance with the applicable customs or usage and where saptapadi has been adopted, the marriage becomes complete and binding when the seventh step is taken. Where a Hindu marriage is not performed in accordance with the applicable rites or ceremonies such as saptapadi when included, the marriage will not be construed as a Hindu marriage.”

The Court said that for a valid marriage under the HMA Act, the requisite ceremonies have to be performed and there must be proof of performance of the said ceremony when an issue/controversy arises.

“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”, it added.

Furthermore, the Court held that although the parties may have complied with the requisite conditions for a valid Hindu marriage as per Section 5 of the Act in the absence of there being a “Hindu marriage” in accordance with Section 7 of the Act, i.e., solemnization of such a marriage, there would be no Hindu marriage in the eye of law.

“In the absence of there being a valid Hindu marriage, the Marriage Registration Officer cannot register such a marriage under the provisions of Section 8 of the Act. Therefore, if a certificate is issued stating that the couple had undergone marriage and if the marriage ceremony had not been performed in accordance with Section 7 of the Act, then the registration of such marriage under Section 8 would not confer any legitimacy to such a marriage. The registration of a marriage under Section 8 of the Act is only to confirm that the parties have undergone a valid marriage ceremony in accordance with Section 7 of the Act. In other words, a certificate of marriage is a proof of validity of Hindu marriage only when such a marriage has taken place and not in a case where there is no marriage ceremony performed at all”, it emphasised.

The Court also remarked that a Hindu marriage is a sacrament and has a sacred character and in the context of saptapadi in a Hindu marriage, according to Rig Veda, after completing the seventh step (saptapadi) the bridegroom says to his bride, “With seven steps we have become friends (sakha). May I attain to friendship with thee; may I not be separated from thy friendship”.

“A wife is considered to be half of oneself (ardhangini) but to be accepted with an identity of her own and to be a co-equal partner in the marriage. There is nothing like a “better-half” in a marriage but the spouses are equal halves in a marriage. In Hindu Law, as already noted, marriage is a sacrament or a samskara. It is the foundation for a new family”, it observed.

The Court enunciated that a man and a woman cannot be treated as a husband and a wife unless a marriage is performed or celebrated with proper and due ceremonies and in the prescribed form.

“In the absence of any solemnisation of a marriage as per the provisions of the Act, a man and a woman cannot acquire the status of being a husband and a wife to each other. In the above context, we deprecate the practice of young men and women seeking to acquire the status of being a husband and a wife to each other and therefore purportedly being married, in the absence of a valid marriage ceremony under the provisions of the Act such as in the instant case where the marriage between the parties was to take place later”, it said.

The Court noted that in the absence of there being any such marriage in accordance with Section 7, a certificate issued in that regard by any entity is of no legal consequence and further, any registration of a marriage which has not at all taken place under Section 8 and as per the rules made by the State Government would not be evidence of a Hindu marriage and also does not confer the status of a husband and a wife to a couple.

“We note that parents of young couples agree for registration of a marriage in order to apply for Visa for emigration to foreign countries where either of the parties may be working “in order to save time” and pending formalising a marriage ceremony. Such practices have to be deprecated. What would be the consequence, if no such marriage is solemnised at all at a future date? What would be the status of the parties then? Are they husband and wife in law and do they acquire such status in society?”, it further asked.

The Court also said that a Hindu marriage facilitates procreation, consolidates the unit of family and solidifies the spirit of fraternity within various communities and after all, a marriage is sacred for it provides a lifelong, dignity-affirming, equal, consensual and healthy union of two individuals.

“It is considered to be an event that confers salvation upon the individual especially when the rites and ceremonies are conducted1. The customary ceremonies, with all its attendant geographical and cultural variations is said to purify and transform the spiritual being of an individual. … The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 solemnly acknowledges both the material and spiritual aspects of this event in the married couple’s lives. Besides providing a mechanism for registration of marriages in order to confer the status of a married couple and acknowledge rights in personam and rights in rem, a special place is given to rites and ceremonies in the Act. It follows that the critical conditions for the solemnizing of a Hindu marriage should be assiduously, strictly and religiously followed. This is for the reason that the genesis of a sacred process cannot be a trivial affair”, it added.

The Court said that the sincere conduct of and participation in the customary rites and ceremonies under Section 7 ought to be ensured by all married couples and priests who preside over the ceremony.

“The promises made to each by the parties to a Hindu marriage and the oath taken by them to remain friends forever lay the foundation for a life-long commitment between the spouses which should be realized by them. If such commitment to each other is adhered to by the couple, then there would be far fewer cases of breakdown of marriages leading to divorce or separation. … we declare that the ‘marriage’ dated 07.07.2021 between the parties is not a ‘Hindu marriage’ having regard to the provisions of Section 7 of the Act. Consequently, the certificate issued by the Vadik Jankalyan Samiti (Regd.) dated 07.07.2021 is declared null and void”, it concluded.

Accordingly, the Apex Court disposed of the transfer petition, allowed the application filed under Article 142, and declared the marriage between the parties as null and void.

Cause Title- Dolly Rani v. Manish Kumar Chanchal (Neutral Citation: 2024 INSC 355)


Petitioner: Advocates Dhruv Gupta, Kumar Prashant, Aprajita Mishra, AOR Vanya Gupta, Advocates Yagya Singh, and Madhu Yadav.

Respondent: AOR Rukhsana Choudhury

Click here to read/download the Judgment