The Special Marriage Act (SMA), 1954

The Special Marriage Act (SMA), 1954
  • The Special Marriage Act (SMA), 1954 is the legislation made to validate and register interreligious and inter-caste marriages in India.
  • It allows two individuals to solemnise their marriage through a civil contract.
  • No religious formalities are needed to be carried out under the Act.
  • This Act includes Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Sikh, Jain, and Buddhist marriages.
  • This Act applies not only to Indian citizens who belong to different castes and religions but also to Indian nationals who live abroad.

Key provisions of the Special Marriage Act (SMA), 1954

  • Prior notice to the marriage officer
    • Section 5 of the SMA: Couples have to serve a notice with the relevant documents to the Marriage Officer 30 days before the intended date of marriage.
  • Registration process
    • Both parties are required to be present after the submission of documents for issuance of public notice inviting objections.
    • Registration is done 30 days after the date of notice after deciding any objection that may have been received during that period by the SDM.
    • Both parties along with three witnesses are required to be present on the date of registration.

How do these provisions make couples vulnerable?

  • These public notices have been used by anti-social elements to harass couples getting married.
  • There have been instances, where marriage officers have gone over and beyond the law and sent such notices to the parents.
  • The Haryana government has laid down 16 prerequisites which ask couples to issue a notice in a newspaper and that such notices be sent to their parents.
  • In certain States, couples have to seek a no-objection certificate from their parents.
  • With as many as 11 States passing anti-conversion (or love-jihad) laws, parents and the State are now armed to punish and harass such couples.

Latest News

  • 31 August 2022: The Supreme Court dismissed a writ petition challenging provisions of the Special Marriage Act (SMA), 1954 requiring couples to give a notice declaring their intent to marry 30 days before their marriage.
    • The petition was dismissed on the grounds that the petitioner was no longer an aggrieved party.
    • What does the petition seek?
      • The writ petition has called certain provisions of SMA, 1954 violative of the right to privacy guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.
      • The writ petition also said that the provisions contravene Article 14 on the prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste and sex as well as Article 15 on right to equality as these requirements are absent in personal laws.
  • 2020: Writ petition in Nandini Praveen vs Union of India & Others filed on similar grounds was admitted by the Supreme Court in 2020.
    • In this case, the court is waiting for the reply of the Government.


  1. The Hindu

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