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Nullity of Marriage under Hindu Marriage Act

A socially and religiously recognized union between a man and a woman that establishes certain rights and duties between them is called a marriage. The parties to the marriage that is the man and the woman are call husband and wife respectively. A marriage is often referred as a contact between the husband and wife to live together. In our nation, marriage is a religious establishment which is essential for the development of our general public.

Marriage has been awarded a legal status Under various personal laws. These laws include Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, Parsi marriage and divorce act,1936. Indian Christain Marriage Act, 1872 and Special Marriage Act, 1954. The marriage is considered as a sacred relationship. But it's complexities In the society give birth to the concept of nullity of marriage.

Meaning Of Nullity Of Marriage:

The term nullity of marriage Is a declaration by a court that your supposed marriage is null and void, And there is no valid marriage exist between you and your spouse. In simple words, It is a declaration that the supposed marriage never happened. One thing to be noted here that, Nullity is not the same thing as divorce. Divorce is the declaration ending a valid marriage. But on the other hand, nullity is a declaration that valid marriage never existed.

Law of nullity talks about Two types of marriages that may be cancelled. These are known as void marriage and voidable marriage respectively.

If your marriage is void, it means that it is never having taken place. Technically, if marriage between you and your spouse never took place, then there is no need of court to obtain a degree of annulment. You can simply act as though your marriage never happened. But, it is advisable to obtain a court order declaring that your marriage is annulled so that any doubt can be removed.

But on the other hand, if your marriage is voidable, this is considered yo be a valid marriage until and unless a degree of annulment is made.

In order to obtain a degree of annulment in a voidable marriage either of the party has to apply to the court for a nullity. If the court deems it fit that your marriage was invalid from the start and your marriage never happened, it passes the order for nullity of marriage.

Firstly, it has to be noted that nullity of marriage is different from divorce and judicial separation. Nullity of marriage is the declaration of the court that marriage was not in existence. It refers to the validity of a marriage according to the law. It clearly states that there was not a valid marriage performed between the parties.

Divorce on the other hand is a judicial declaration on the petition of the parties of marriage which led to the end of a valid marriage. It is to be noted here that in divorce the validity of a marriage is not questioned but the continuation of marriage is affected and there is an end of a valid marriage.

Judicial separation is also different from nullity of marriage. In judicial separation there is a court's declaration on the petition of the parties of marriage to live separate under the status of marriage. It is not an end of the marriage. The duties of husband and wife remain same towards each other.

Nullity of Marriage under Hindu Law:
According to the smrities, marriage is considered as an essential sanskar for the Hindus. It is a duty of the members to perform it. Before the enactments of the parliament, there was no such concept of end of marriage or nullity of marriage under the Hindu personal law and the marriage is treated as a holy and strong wedlock for the whole life. But after the enactment of Hindu Marriage Act [1] There are certain grounds on which marriage shall be declared null and void by the court. These grounds are given under Clause i, iv, and v of section 5 of the Hindu Marriage Act.

Void Marriage:
The term void can be generally understood as a synonym of the word illegal. hence anything which is void would have one consequence for sure that it would be illegal as well. A void marriage[2] therefore means an illegal marriage. Section 5 of the Hindu Marriage act lays down certain essentials which are to be fulfilled for a valid marriage. On the other hand, section 11 of the Hindu marriage act lays down the grounds which shall render a marriage as void.

These grounds are as follows:
  1. Bigamy:
    The very first condition for a valid Hindu marriage is that none of the parties to the marriage shall have a living spouse at the time of their marriage. If either of them has a spouse alive from an earlier marriage, their subsequent marriage is considered as no marriage in the eyes of law. It is considered as void from the very beginning.
     
  2. Prohibited Relationships:
    Under prohibited relationships, lineal ascendants are to be seen from both sides that is from the father's side as well as from the mother's side too. So, both the mother and father are lineal ascendants. Father's father is a lineal ascendant whereas mother's mother is also a lineal ascendant. So, no marriage is performed between the prohibited relationships. And if performed these marriages have no validity in the eyes of law.
     
  3. Sapinda Relationships:
    By the virtue of Section 3(f) clause ii, not only those who fall within the limits of sapinda relationships shall be a sapinda to the person but also where two persons have a common lineal ascendant who is within the limits of sapinda relationships with reference to each of them, both of them shall be a sapinda to each other.

Voidable Marriages:
Voidable marriage[3] is also categorized under Hindu Marriage act. The voidable marriage is a one which is valid until declared null and void. This marriage shall be annulled by the decree of nullity taken under section 12 of Hindu Marriage Act. It is totally upon the parties that whether they want to continue with the marriage or to annul marriage by the decree of the court.

Following are the grounds to set aside a marriage and make it voidable:
  1. Impotency of the respondent.
  2. Incapacity to give valid consent or forced consent of parties or mental illness or the person is unfit for creation of a child.
  3. Under aged marriage. [4]
  4. If respondent was pregnant by some other person at the time of marriage.

Difference between Void and Voidable Marriage:
  1. Void marriage is void from the very beginning but voidable marriage is valid unless it is avoided by either party to the marriage.
  2. In void marriage a mere degree is passed as to nullity of marriage by the court. But in voidable the marriage is annulled by the decree of nullity by the court.
  3. Parties are free to perform another marriage without getting a decree of nullity in a void marriage. But in voidable marriage, parties cannot perform another marriage unless the marriage is annulled by the court.
  4. A wife has no right to claim compensation in a void marriage. On the other hand, in voidable marriage wife has the right to claim compensation.
Nullity of Marriage under Special Marriage Act, 1954:
Section 24 of the special marriage act also talks about the nullity of marriage which also have certain grounds. Like neither party has living spouse, incapable to give valid consent, parties are under aged, parties are in relation of prohibited degree and impotency of respondent.

Procedure For Obtaining Decree Of Nullity:

The procedure for obtaining decree of nullity of marriage is same in all personal laws. The petition for nullity of marriage shall be presented before the court. The jurisdiction of court is decided on the basis that where the defendant or respondent has resides or marriage has solemnized or place where the party has last resized together.

After it, the court issue notice yo respondent or defendant to give reply before the court. After hearing of parties and considering the related evidences court grant the relief accordingly.

Consequences Of Nullity Of Marriage And Children Born Out Of These Marriages:

After the declaration of nullity of marriage is made , the court also decides maintenance which is given to the opposite party either monthly or yearly or lump sum amount.

Children born out of this marriage are considered to be legitimate. After the order of nullity of marriage is made the parties are free to marry with any other person. Order of nullity of marriage declares that there was no status of marriage between two persons. A marriage which is null and void have no legal status at all.

Case Laws:
Parayan K. Amma vs. K. Devi [5]
The court in this case held that for the purpose of bringing social reform, the amendment act has been conferred the status of legitimacy on children, who if not awarded the title of legitimate children, will be treated as bastards.

Yamunabai Anantrao Adhav vs. Anantrao Shivram Adhav [6]
In this case, it has been held that a marriage which is contravention of section 11 of the Hindu marriage act shall be treated as null and void from the time of its inception.

Lila vs Laxmi [7]
In this case it was held by the Allahabad High Court that a void marriage does not need a degree of nullity as it is no marriage in the eyes of the law. A decree passed for this marriage is a mere declaration of nullity of marriage.

Smt.Sariabai vs. Komalsingh [8]
It was held that petition after eight years of marriage is barred by the statute of limitation and cannot be entertained.

Ratenshwari vs. Bhagwati [9]
In this case the federal court held that marriage with person of unsound mind is void because at the time of marriage he could not know the nature of his act.

Conclusion:
In a country like India there are different religions and practices and each having it's own personal laws related to the marriages. In our country marriage is considered as a holy religious sacrament which is very essential for the systematic functions of our society. So, it should be done without any kind of force and fraud. The grounds for nullity in all personal laws are almost same in India. Nullity of the marriage makes a person free from the bond of the marriage which is like a burden over them. The grounds of the nullity of marriage are also legal as well as taking care of religious sentiments.

References:
  1. Hindu Law; Author : Mulla , Published by: Delhi Law House
  2. Hindu Law, By: Tahir Mohammad , Published by: Law Book Company, 1981
  3. Law of Marriage and Divorce, By: Sumeet Malik , Published by: EBC , Edition: 3rd
End-Notes:
  1. Which is enforceable from year 1955.
  2. Section 11 of the Hindu Marriage act, 1955.
  3. Section 12 of Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.
  4. Age which is 18 years for a girl and 21 years for a boy needed for a valid marriage.
  5. 1996 SC
  6. AIR 1988 SC 644
  7. 1968
  8. AIR 1991 M.P. 358
  9. AIR 1950 FC 142.

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