Our society places a great deal of importance on marriage as an institution. The
two parties are rendered legally bound, and rights and obligations are
established. A marriage that has been solemnised and registered in accordance
with the Special Marriage Act of 1954 is also a lawful marriage.
A decree of
nullity must be acquired by the appropriate court in cases where a marriage,
even one that has been registered under the Special Marriage Act of 1954, is
void from the start. According to Section 24 of the Special Marriage Act of
1954, such unions are known as void marriages and are legally recognised. In
some situations, a party could desire to dissolve a marriage even when it is
legal. These unions are known as voidable marriages and are covered under
Section 25 of the Special Marriage Act of 1954.
Some marriages are null and void from the very beginning. These marriages have
no foundation at all, thus there is no need to examine the facts to determine
whether they are valid. A party does not need to present any more proof to the
court if the court determines that their marriage is invalid after they have
filed a petition.
Simply declaring the facts and issuing the annulment decree
would be all that the court would be doing. Section 24(1) of the Special
Marriage Act of 1954 specifies the reasons why a marriage is null and void.
The Special Marriage Act of 1954 stipulates the following terms in Section 15:
A ceremonial performance
- A marriage is void if one or both of the parties violates any of the
conditions outlined in Sections 4(a) through 4(d) of the Special Marriage
Act of 1954.
The following criteria are listed:
- Prior to marriage, neither party should be cohabiting with a spouse.
- Neither partner should have a mental illness that would prevent them
from continuing a marriage or having children, or experience recurrent
episodes of insanity. They should also not be unable of giving a legal
consent at the moment of marriage due to being of unsound mind.
- The male should be at least 21 years old, and the female should be at
least 18 years old.
- Neither party should fit into any of the classifications of prohibited
If the respondent was incapable of reproducing at the time of the marriage or
the filing of the lawsuit, the marriage would be deemed null and void. Here, the
party seeking relief has the burden of proof. It is the obligation of the
aggrieved party to establish that the marriage could not have taken place due to
the impotence of their spouse.
According to Section 24(2), unless the registration violated the terms outlined
in Section 15(a) to (e) of the SMA, 1954, any marriage that has been solemnised
within the meaning of Section 18, SMA 1954, which describes the effect of
registration of marriage, shall not be affected by anything contained in Section
The parties to the marriage have already conducted the ceremony and have been
cohabitating as husband and wife ever since.
When the marriage is registered, neither parties to the marriage should have any
other partner alive.
At the time of registration, both parties to the marriage should be mentally
sound. None of them ought to be a lunatic or an idiot.
At the time of the marriage's registration, the male should have reached the age
of 21 and the female should have reached the age of 18.
The parties to the marriage should not be in any of the forbidden relationships
listed in Schedule I of the Special Marriage Act, 1954 to any degree.
If an appeal has been filed under Section 17 of the SMA, 1954, and the
district court's ruling has become final, neither party may declare that their
marriage is null and void.
The applicant in Prafulla Bala Biswas v. Ila Das and Anr.
I (1997) DMC 448 was
the mother of respondent's husband who had been wed to the respondent under the
Special Marriage Act of 1954. Due to her son's impotence at the time of the
marriage and the fact that the union was never consummated, the petitioner
claimed the marriage was void-ab initio.
According to N. Bhattacharjee, J.,
Section 24(1)(ii) of the SMA, 1954 prohibits third parties from contesting the
legality of marriage on the grounds of impotence. Only the parties to the
marriage are eligible to use this ground. As a result, the appeal was denied.
Marriages that are voidable are those that remain legal until one of the two
parties decides to annul it because it violates Section 25 of the SMA, 1954. In
a legal proceeding, either party may ask for the annulment of the marriage. If
the party seeking to annul the marriage's petition is unsuccessful, it will
still be a legitimate marriage. Even if a spouse passes away while the petition
is pending, the marriage will still be recognised as lawful.
The Special Marriage Act of 1954, Section 25, lists the following reasons why
a marriage may be voidable:
- Wilful rejection
The other party's wilful refusal to engage in sexual activity with his or
her spouse may be a good reason to ask the appropriate court with
jurisdiction for an annulment.
The petitioner may get an annulment if he discovers that the responder was
already pregnant when they were married to someone else.
But this argument could fall short if:
- The petitioner knew of the alleged allegations.
- The legal action was started more than a year after the wedding.
- The petitioner and respondent have not engaged in marital sexual
intercourse since the claimed facts were learned.
- Consent that was gained under coercion or fraud:
A decree of annulment may be requested by either party on the grounds that
the assent of the parties to the marriage was not voluntary and was instead
gained by threats or by concealing important material information to
persuade the other party to join into the marriage. But he/she may not be
successful in obtaining the decree of annulment if:
- Despite the fraud's exposure or the cessation of the coercion,
- The aggrieved party did not file the lawsuit within a year of the discovery or
- Out of his or her own free choice, the offended party continued to reside with
the other party.
In the case of Jolly Das (Smt) Alias Moulick v. Tapan Ranjan Das
SCC 36, the appellant claimed that the respondent obtained her signature on
blank forms under the pretence that she was submitting an application for a
music competition and then fraudulently registered the marriage under the
Special Marriage Act of 1954. The Learned Additional District judge ruled that
this marriage was null and void after the appellant requested an annulment under
Section 25(iii). The Calcutta High Court, however, overruled the judgement.
As a result of the District Court's ruling being affirmed and the marriage being
deemed null and void in accordance with Section 25(iii) of the SMA, 1954, the
aggrieved appellant subsequently sought redress from the Apex court.
In the case of Payal Choudhury v. Pardip Das
(F.A. 43 of 1998), the boy
pretended to be a successful businessman, the girl fell in love with him, and
they were wed in accordance with the Special Marriage Act of 1954. She later
discovered that the boy had lied to her about his financial status after the
marriage, when he refused to take her to their new home. Invoking Section 25,
the appellant sought annulment (iii). The Hon'ble Guwahati High Court made a
ruling in favour of the applicant and pronounced this marriage to be a sham.
Children Born Out Of Void And Voidable Marriages
The Special Marriage Act of 1954's Section 26 discusses the legality of children
born in void or voidable marriages. According to clause 1 of this section, a
child born in a null marriage would still be considered a legitimate kid. The
legitimacy of the kid will not be impacted by the annulment of a null marriage.
In a similar vein, clause 2 provides that it will not affect the legitimacy of
the child, if a child is born out of a voidable marriage before the marriage has
been declared void by an order of the competent court. The youngster would be
regarded as legitimate. The child of a null or voidable marriage has a right to
their parents' assets under clause 3 of this provision. It does not, however,
grant him ownership of anyone else's possessions.
With regard to K. Santhosha v. Karnataka Power Transmission Corporation
[WRIT APPEAL No.2495/2019 (S – RES)], the Hon'ble Karnataka High Court stated
that "no child is born in this world without a father and a mother" when
deciding the petitioner's legal status under Section 26 of the Special Marriage
Under sections 24 and 25 of the Special Marriage Act of 1954 prevent spouses
from entering into a partnership that is founded on deceit, fraud, or any other
circumstance that falls under the purview of those provisions. It helps
individuals who have been wronged, sets the couple free, and allows them the
chance to leave marriages that are either null and void from the start or that
the appropriate court can pronounce such marriage null and void. While Sections
24 and 25 of the SMA, 1954 defend the rights of the spouses, section 26 protects
the rights of children born in void or voidable marriages.
Written By: Ameesha Goel
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