The Impact of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 on the Indian Society

The Hindu Marriage Act was enacted by the Indian Parliament in the year 1955, with the purpose of regulating the personal life among the Hindus, especially their institution of marriage, its validity, conditions for invalidity and applicability etc.

There are many salient features in the provisions of the act that makes and even prompt a person to consider it as rather conservative. The underlying note or we can say that the lifeline that runs throughout the act is that it duly recognizes the religious sentiments and values of the Hindus which they respectfully cherish and consider as valuable. Accordingly the Hindu Marriage Act has considered and treated the institution of marriage among the Hindus so sacrosanct as it evolved through ages among them, duly recognizing their time immemorial customs, traditions, sasthras that include their rituals and other practices as practiced and evolved by them over a long period.Above all the act by covering and encompassing all the people from the modern offshoots of Hinduism like Prarthana Samaj, Arya Samaj and Brahma Samaj also has a modern look by duly recognizing those modern offshoots of Hindu religion.

Therefore, the Hindu Marriage Act is applicable to all Hindus like saivites, vaishnavites, lingayats and the followers of Prarthana, Arya and Brahma Samajas and to others who comes within the fold of Hinduism like the Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains. Thus the Hindu Marriage Act applies to the religious folds that arose during the 6 th century B.C and also in 18 th and 19 th century A.D.Therefore, the Hindu Marriage Act essentially is acting as a bridge connecting ages. The credit of giving us such an ageless act goes to the Indian legal luminaries.

The conditions imposed by the Hindu Marriage Act for a valid marriage, though may look insignificant on a superficial look, actually have the modern elements and characteristics, of course with a far sightedness. So as to solemnize a marriage between two Hindus, the following conditions have been imposed:

5)(i)Neither party has a spouse living at the time of the marriage; which actually discourages plural marriages and in the present modern day context, the provision helps to prevent dissemination of incurable diseases like AIDS and other virulent form of venereal diseases in the society.

iii)The age of eligibility for getting married is fixed as 21 for bridegrooms and 18 for brides, which actually helps to prevent social evils like child marriages from the Indian Society.

iv) and v) prevents marriages between prohibited degree of relationships and sapindas. This provision has a scientific base because the prevention of a marriage between persons of prohibited degree of relationship or sapindas, will actually prevent the birth of physically deformed children or deaf, dumb and blind children, because the possibility of delivering such children is more in marriages between persons of prohibited relationship and sapindas.

In Section 7 of the Act, the ceremonies and customs of a Hindu Marriage are duly recognized, giving a sentimental value to the act. For example immediately after the marriage, both the bride and the bridegroom will take seven steps before the sacred fire, that will sanctify the marriage and that ceremony is known as Saptapadi. Even by going a step forward, the act stipulates that the marriage is not valid if Saptapadi is not performed.Thereby the Hindu Marriage Act also recognises the time immemorial customs and rituals followed by the Hindus.

Section 8 of the Hindu Marriage Act provides for the compulsory registration of marriages and even stipulates a punishment for violating the provision. This provision is actually an eye opener and it safeguards those hapless persons who may become victims of fraud marriages carefully maneuvered and planned by unscrupulous antisocial elements.

Section 13 of the Hindu Marriage Act has provisions which may serve as grounds of marriages for spouses who intend to file petitions seeking divorce from their spouses. When we consider these grounds, some of them have social relevance:-

For example if a spouse commits adultery with a person other than his or her spouse;

If a spouse ceased to be a Hindu by conversion;

If a spouse has been suffering from a virulent and incurable form of leprosy;

If a spouse has been suffering from a venereal disease in a communicable form;

The above provisions not only respect the religious feelings of the Hindus besides providing a ground for divorce. Similarly, the provision relating to adultery, virulent form of disease like leprosy or communicable form of VD etc are not only help the concerned spouses to seek divorce from their spouses, but also serve the cause and larger interests of the society, by preventing the spread of virulent and communicable form of venereal diseases

Thus the Hindu Marriage Act, though it contains only 30 sections and may even be considered a very small piece of legislation, it is a comprehensive Act by virtue of its utility not only to the Hindus but also in the general welfare and interest of the Indian Society as well.