Legal AdviceMarriage

What Is the Role of a Court Marriage Witness?

Witnesses play a key role in the solemnisation of court marriages which required three witnesses to sign.

People choose to get a court marriage done for various reasons. Some may not want to spend money on a big fat Indian wedding, some may belong to different faiths and, therefore, this is a neutral ground to get married, while some may be getting married against the wishes of their families. A court marriage witness plays a key role in solemnising the marriage.

In October 2020, an interfaith couple approached the Delhi High Court with a plea to remove a clause in the Special Marriage Act, 1954. Registration of interfaith marriage under this Act requires the marriage officer to first issue a 30-day public notice. The couple has pleaded that such notices, at times, become a reason for life threats for interfaith couples. They have said that this procedure is discriminatory in nature, intended to discourage interfaith marriages like theirs.

Number of Court Marriage Witnesses Required

Whatever the case may be, for a marriage to get solemnised in the marriage registrar’s office, the couple has to have three witnesses. These can be family members, family friends, friends or even colleagues. The couple can go ahead with the marriage in spite of objections from their parents, provided they have attained the legal age of 21 years for the groom and 18 years for the bride if they have three witnesses present during the exchange of vows and while signing the marriage register.

Conditions to Get Married

Neither party should not be in an existing, legal marriage with another person. Meaning they should either be single at the time of the marriage or be divorced, in which case a certificate stating this should be presented.

The bridegroom should be of 21 years of age and the bride should be of 18 years of age.

The parties should not be of unsound mind. In other words, the person should not be suffering from any mental disorder or be in a state where he/she doesn’t know what they are doing.

The parties should not fall within the degree of a prohibited relationship. They should not be related to each other or fall under the degree of prohibited relationship. If that’s the case, it will be grounds for dissolving the marriage. However, if the custom of any one of the parties allows for the marriage under prohibited relation such marriage may be solemnised.

Prohibited Degrees in Marriage

The prohibited relationship in Schedule I and Schedule II of the Act include relationships with cousins, both paternal and maternal. under different religions are considered differently.

Under Hindu Law, marriage with second cousins is prohibited as they come under sapindas. However, the special marriage act doesn’t prohibit such a relationship.

As per Muslim law, marriage between cousins both paternal and maternal is allowed.

While in the Christian law, marriage with cousins is allowed if the Church permits it.

Role of a Court Marriage Witness During the Procedure

Under the Special Marriage Act, 1954, inter-religion marriages can be attained without abiding by personal laws. The witness comes to the picture after the couple file a notice of intended marriage in the specified form to the marriage registrar of the district stating the intention to get married. At least one other party to the marriage has to reside for a period of not less than 30 days immediately preceding the date on which such a notice is given. The court checks all the documents to ascertain whether they are indeed eligible to get married as per the law. It then publishes/puts up a notice inviting objections. The time period for this is 30 days.

Now, the witness comes into the picture once no objection is received against the marriage and the bride and the groom are at the marriage registrar’s office to sign a declaration accepting each other as their lawfully wedded husband and wife respectively. The declaration has to be signed in presence of three witnesses before the registrar which is further countersigned by the registrar of marriages.

Merely observing the procedure is not enough, the witness has to sign the documents and also provide their PAN card and residential proof. The registrar will enter the details in the marriage registration online certificate register after the signing of the declaration by the bride, groom, witnesses and registrar. He/ she will then issue a certificate of marriage which is exclusive proof of solemnisation of marriage.

REGISTER FOR COURT MARRIAGE

Consequences

If the bride and the groom are of legal age and do not have a spouse already, then it’s fine. A witness will not invite any legal problem. But if the bride or the groom is a minor as per the law or not duly divorced after previous marriage and if any vindictive relative of either spouse initiates any legal action, the witness may be called to testify.

In fact, if one of the couples is a minor, a criminal case can be slapped against the other couple, who is above the legal age, and the witnesses. Basically, if any or all conditions have been violated by any one party, the witness can land in legal trouble.

Also when the marital status itself comes into a dispute at a later period and if one of the spouses wants to prove the fact of a marriage, the witness may be issued a summons by the court upon an application by the party.

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