Love Marriage and Legal Protection for Runaway Couple
As the world progress towards liberation from paradoxical cultural anomalies the taboos and prejudices around love-marriage are slowly dissolving. After all, a marriage is a sacred life-long bond which two consenting individuals of legal age i.e. man 21, and woman 18 should be able to enter into freely. The freedom of choosing a life partner is quintessential to individuality and individual’s fundamental right to life and liberty as is guaranteed in the Constitution.
However, orthodox and conservative societies have omitted the word ‘volition’ from their dictionaries as they celebrate regressive traditional-norms that demand staunch obedience from all subjects. The mutilation of rationality is such that blind obedience of elder’s command is a virtue while individualism and freedom of choice is frowned upon and considered a vice; so much so that marrying by choice invites social stigma and boycott while gruesome and barbaric killing of a runaway couple is a matter of tribe-pride.
To check the ongoing evil, the Law Commission, in its 242nd report submitted on 22nd Augusts, 2012, examined whether ‘honour killings’ must be dealt with differently in the manner of court trials through amended provisions of law and if there was justification for awarding death penalty.
This was in the context of a Supreme Court ruling in Bhagwan Dass Versus State (NCT) of Delhi-AIR 2011 (SC) 1863 that ‘honour killings’ belong to the category of rarest of rare cases and hence capital punishment shall be given. The Law Commission observed that motive behind killing persons would not furnish real justification to introduce a separate provision under Section 300 IPC, although the government had contemplated such a change. Instead, it found that the root cause is invariably the opposition to inter-caste marriages and gotra marriages for the honour killings and there must be a special law that would recognize a different set of principles for quelling the group opposition in the local communities. It, therefore, suggested a new legal framework through a law for Prevention of Interference with the Freedom of Matrimonial Alliances (in the name of Honour and Tradition). The recommendations have not so far been put through the legislative anvil to secure any new law on the subject.
Two Good Legal Recourses Available to a Runaway Couple for Safeguarding Their Love Interest
1. Individuals Above 18 Years of Age Have a Right to Live-in Together
Two consenting individuals above 18 years of age can legally live in together and any coercive action to separate them from each other against their will, whether by police officials, or by family members, is an offence against their rights. The couple can avail various legal remedies depending on the nature of coercive action taken against them, including but not limited to seeking protection and other directions from the High Court
Further, the Supreme Court in Civil Writ Petition No. – 33919 of 2013 in Deepika And Another Vs. State Of U.P. And 3 Others, held that:
“…Now coming back to the case in hand, the principle of law that could be deduced from the above decisions is that if petitioners are major, they have unfettered right to choice of a person with whom they want to live. The Courts are not concerned whether their marriage is solemnized or not, as held by the Supreme Court in Gian Devi (supra) that if a girl has attained the age of majority, no one including her parents have right to object against her preference. In Bhagwan Dass (supra) the Supreme Court has issued a direction to circulate the copy of the judgment to the Registrars General/ Registrars of all the High Courts with a further direction to circulate the same to all the Judges of the Courts including Sessions Judges/ Additional Sessions Judges, and also to the Chief Secretaries, Home Secretaries, Directors General of Police of all the States to circulate the said judgment to all the Senior Superintendents of Police/Superintendents of Police of their States for their information.
It is distressing to note that in spite of the said direction of the Supreme Court, the Police is ignoring the law and the direction issued to them by the Apex Court. Thus, if any police officer harasses young couple, who are major and are living together voluntarily, such Police officer will be at the risk of disobeying the judgment of the Supreme Court in Bhagwan Dass (supra).
Therefore, if a complaint is made by the parents/relatives against a boy or a girl, the police officers shall have a limited role in such matter, under the law, that they can verify their age and whether they have decided to live together voluntarily. If they are educated and they produce their educational and other certificates, admissible under the law, from which it is evident that they have attained the majority and they are living with their free will then no police officer shall take any coercive action against them. If they do not have any documentary proof regarding their age and they come from the rural background and are illiterate/ semi-literate, the police officer can subject such boy or the girl to ossification test to verify their correct age, and he can also follow the other procedure permissible under the law.
If the police officer is satisfied that they are major then he has no “authority to interfere with the living of the boy or girl and any such complaint made against the boy or girl by the parents should be dealt with in accordance with law.”
In Idrish Mohd. vs Memam And Anr, (2000) 10 SCC 333, the Hon’ble Apex Court held that:
“…we find that she has attained majority by now. She cannot, therefore, be kept detained against her wishes. The impugned order of the High Court also indicates that she is willing to go only with the appellant. We accordingly allow this appeal and direct the Authorities of Nari Niketan, Karnal to release Respondent 1 forthwith.”
In the above mentioned case the woman was released and let to follow her will of living with her lover as she had turned over 18 years of age and was legally competent to decide for herself with whom she wanted to stay.
There have been instances where even after somehow eloping, the couple is emotionally manipulated by family members to return on pretext of family-pride & honor, moral obligations, social responsibilities, promise of acceptance, etc. etc. but, as soon as the couple returns they are revenged upon and obliterated. Therefore, before risking into a position of vulnerability or susceptibility to injury or damage, a runaway couple must reach out to a good lawyer and adopt right legal recourses to ensure their security and safeguard their love interest.
2. A Run-away Couple Has a Right to Get Maried and Get Their Marriage Registered
When the boy is above 21 and the girl is above 18 and are capable of giving a valid consent, they can get married even if their parents are opposed to their marriage. Yes, you read it right. The consent of parents is not mandatory for love marriage registration. Even friends or members of general public can witness the marriage.
In spite of clear provisions of law, many couples get drifted from their chosen course. Lack of legal knowledge and abundance of fear makes it difficult for layman to comprehend legalities and find a way out.
The following set of FAQ aims at imparting knowledge and removing doubts so that such couples find confidence in their legal position and defend their stand:
1. Is love marriage legal in India?
Yes. The only condition is that the boy should be above 21 and the girl should be above 18 and they should be capable of giving a valid and legal consent. The marriage should not be done under force, fraud, or coercion.
2. Is live-in permitted and legal in India?
Yes. Couple above 18 years of age may choose to live in together.
3. Is consent of parents required for love marriage?
No, it is not mandatory. Only the consent of boy and girl matters.
4. Can parents or police take any legal action to separate the couple which is living in together or has conducted a love marriage?
No. if police or family members interfere or breach peace, the couple can take legal action against them.
5. How much time does it take for love marriage registration?
Depends on the district and the procedure which is to be followed. A Hindu Marriage Certificate can be issued by the institution/ priest on the same day and marriage registration in Court/ tehsil may take anywhere from 1 day to 1 week.
6. How much time does it takes to get Protection from the court?
Protection can be granted instantly by the court on presenting the petition especially in cases where there is a dire threat to the safety and security of the couple.
7. What happens if parents file false criminal cases against the couple or use police force to separate or punish either of them?
Ideally, no one can or should interfere with the freedom of two consenting adults. However, if there is any kind of foul play, the couple can directly reach the High Court for protection.
8. Is it important to get the marriage registered?
Yes, it is important that the marriage is registered so that the interest of both husband and wife is safeguarded. Besides, registration of marriage also saves the man from false accusation of forced marriage/ abduction/ rape and other such criminal charges being raised if in case the wife turns hostile under emotional manipulation by her family members at any later stage.
9. Is it important to take protection?
Seeking protection entirely depends on the circumstance, if there is any threat to safety, or even a slight apprehension of such treat to safety, it is advisable to seek protection from the court.
10. Once the marriage is registered, can parents still have it declared as invalid or get it cancelled?
No. In case the marriage is properly conducted and there is no illegality in the marriage, the marriage cannot be cancelled on a call of the parents of either party. Annulment of marriage or divorce can only be sought by either of the parties on the available grounds.
11. Can people of two different religions marry?
a. Can there be a legally valid marriage between Hindu and a Muslim?
b. Is inter-religion marriage legal in India?
c. Can a Hindu person marry someone of other religion?
d. Can a marriage without religious rites be registered and considered legal?
e. Can two atheists get their marriage registered without performing any religious rites and ceremonies?
Yes. Inter-religion marriages are allowed in India. One is free to choose their life partner from any religion, faith, caste, creed or sect. Inter-religion marriages are registered under Special Marriage Act.
Please note that marriage between Hindu (and various Hindu castes and sects), Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists are not inter-religion marriage in the eyes of law and are governed by the provisions of Hindu Marriage Act only.
However, if two people (of same or different religions) wish to marry without performing any religious rites and ceremonies, they can also directly get their marriage registered under the special marriage Act.
12. How much time does it take to get a marriage registered under the Special Marriage Act?
Eligibility & Mandatory Requirements
- Bride: 18 Years
- Groom: 21 years
Bride & Groom must provide:
- 7 passport sized photographs
- Valid Age Proof (Anyone from the list below)
- Address Proof (Anyone from the list below)
- Aadhar Card
- Matriculation Certificate
- Driving License
- PAN Card
- Birth Certificate
- Voter I-Card
- Ration Card
- Rent agreement (minimum six months old)
Each witness must provide:
- 2 passport sized photographs
- Valid Age Proof
- Valid Address proof
(For Special Marriage Act 3 witnesses are required.)
- Bridegroom’s & Bride’s Joint Photo
- Wedding Card/Marriage photographs
- Bride and Groom’s group photo with family
- If any party is divorcee / widow / widower (Certified copy of that proof)