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Anand Marriage Act: Anand Karaj in Legal Framework

Introduction To Anand Karaj

Sikhism emerged in the Indian subcontinent during the 15th century, and it was founded by Guru Nanak. India's Sikh population stands at 20.8 million, which is 1.72% of the country's total population, whereas there are about 26-30 million sikhs worldwide. Sikh marriage, known as "Anand Karaj" meaning "Blissful Union", is a sacred and joyous ceremony in Sikhism. Anand Karaj was introduced by the third of the Ten Gurus of Sikhism, "Guru Amar Das". A Sikh marriage includes a prescribed religious and cultural format.

Here are the essentials of a traditional Sikh marriage:
The main Sikh marriage ceremony is conducted in the presence of the Guru Granth Sahib (the Sikh holy scripture).

The Anand Karaj is typically held in a Gurdwara (Sikh temple), which is the central place of worship for Sikhs. Any Amritdhari (baptized) Sikh may perform the marriage ceremony

The ceremony begins with the recitation of the Ardaas, a Sikh prayer seeking the blessings of Waheguru (God).

Kirtan: Hymns from the Guru Granth Sahib are sung during the ceremony, reflecting the teachings of Sikhism and the significance of marriage.

The core of the Anand Karaj consists of four hymns known as "Laavan," composed by Guru Ram Das, the fourth Sikh Guru. The couple circle around the Guru Granth Sahib while these hymns are recited. Although the recitation of Guru Amar Das' stanzas in Sikh ceremonies is a historical and enduring tradition, the practice of circumambulating around the Guru Granth Sahib to conduct a marriage ceremony is a relatively recent innovation.

The ceremony includes the chanting of "Ik Onkar" (the one Supreme Reality) and the "Mool Mantar" (the fundamental creed of Sikhism)

The officiating priest, often a Granthi (reader of the Guru Granth Sahib), provides guidance and blessings to the couple based on Sikh teachings

The ceremony concludes with another Ardaas, and the couple receives a Hukamnama, a randomly chosen verse from the Guru Granth Sahib, which is considered the divine order for their life together.

In some cases, the couple may sign a legal register to comply with legal requirements.

The other key elements include Karah Parshad, Congregational Meal (Langar) and Community Participation.

The Sikh Rehat Maryada (SRM) also provides guidelines for the conduct of Sikh ceremonies, including marriage ceremonies throughout India. The Sikh Rehat Maryada is a code of conduct and conventions for the Sikh community, and it was first published by the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) in 1945. It outlines the principles and practices that Sikhs are expected to follow in various aspects of their lives, including religious ceremonies.

While the Sikh Rehat Maryada provides general guidelines, there may be variations in the way individual Gurdwaras conduct marriage ceremonies. As with any religious tradition, individuals and communities may interpret and implement guidelines in various ways, but since then adherence to the Sikh Rehat Maryada is generally considered important for maintaining the authenticity and sanctity of Sikh ceremonies.

History And Background Of The Anand Marriage Act 1909

The Anand ceremony was originally legalised in India through the passage of the Anand Marriage Act of 1909, The Maharaja of Nabha Tikka Ripudadman Singh taking guidance from Bhai Kahan Singh Nabha drafted the Anand Marriage Act to declare legalised the Sikh marriages and presented it to the Imperial Legislative Council. Later on, when Sir Sunder Singh Majithia became the Member of the Legislative Council, he took the initiative to get it passed in 1909.

In the preamble of the Act itself, it is stated, "Whereas it is expedient to remove any doubts as to the validity of the marriage ceremony common among the Sikhs called Anand, the Act is enacted." The same is mentioned in the Objects and Reasons of this Act also.

The first section mentions the jurisdiction of the applicability of the Anand Marriage Act, 1909, according to which it was applicable to the whole of India. However, the Indian Government in 1959, by passing the Act no. 48, excluded its applicability to the State of Jammu and Kashmir. However, there was no provision for registration of marriages and they were registered under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.

But after the independence, It has been a long-standing grievance of the Sikhs that where during the British period the Sikhs were given a separate identity and recognised as a separate religion, but in 1951 when the new Constitution was adopted, their identity was totally abolished and were put as a part of the Hindu Dharma.

After the Independence in the year 1947, the laws relating to personal matters of Hindus were drafted commonly known as the "Hindu Codes Bill", which came in the form of four different enactments, i.e. the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, the Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, 1956 and Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956.

These Acts are applicable to Hindus by religion besides people belonging to Budh, Jain and Sikh by religion. Section 2(c) of the Hindu marriage act explicitly links Sikhs to the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955 for matters related to marriage. While Sikhism is a distinct religion, the Act includes Sikhs within its purview for the regulation of marriages.

Beyond this, the grievances of sikh community grew at a larger date facing identity crisis internationally. They demanded, be it the Hindus; be it the Muslims; be it the Christians; be it the Parsis; be it the Jews, every religion would be given this right of having their marriages registered under their own Act, that they should be given their own identity and marriages should be registered through their own Act.

Because of having the same marriage certificate as a Hindu, the world started viewing them as a part of hindu religion and not a separate and independent religious entity, which was an emotional issue. It was alleged that the clubbing of other religious minorities under the Hindu Marriage Act banner simply negated their own individual identities and with it, the constitutional right under Article 25 of each individual to practise and preach the religion of one's choice.

But it is important to note that the views expressed by a majority of the political and religious leaders that the Anand Marriage Act was made redundant or inapplicable after the Indian Independence in 1947 was wrong. It is because, after Independence, in the year 1949, the Indian Government passed an enactment namely, the Merged States (Laws) Act, 1949, which declared the continuation of all the 256 Acts passed from 1839 to 1949 and most importantly this includes the Anand Marriage Act, 1909 itself, meaning the Act continues to be in force from 1909 till date.

Henceforth it was also amended by the Legislature of India in 1959, vide Act No. 48, which was enforced with effect from 1st February, 1960. All these developments are proof of the fact that after passing of the Anand Marriage Act, in 1909, it has never been annulled or made ineffective as claimed by most of the leaders and writers.

Though the original Anand marriage act had its own shortcomings which were eventually exposed with time and a need for an amendment was expressed which was finally delivered on 7th June 2012 after receiving the assent of then president of India, Smt. Pratibha devi singh patel. The bill was introduced in Rajya Sabha on 7th of May,2012 and was passed on 21st may, it passed from lok sabha on 22nd of May, 2012.

THE ANAND MARRIAGE (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2012 provided the provisions of registering marriages exclusively for sikhs in their own separate act According to the amended bill, couples whose marriages have been registered under this Act will not be required to get their marriage registered under the Registration of Births, Marriages and Deaths Act, 1969 or any other law for the time being in force. The bill amended section 2 and inserted a new section 6 to the act.

Legal Framework and Provisions:
Following is the breakdown of each section of the contemporary Anand Marriage Act, 1909.

Section 1: Short Title and Extent
Short Title: This law is called the "Anand Marriage Act, 1909."

Extent: It applies to the whole of India.

Section 2: Validity of Anand Marriages
Validity Assurance: Any marriage conducted according to the Sikh marriage ceremony known as Anand (or Anand Karaj) is considered valid and legally recognized in India.

Section 3: Exemption of Certain Marriages
Exemption: The Act doesn't apply to:
  1. Marriages between people not following the Sikh religion.
  2. Marriages already declared null and void by a court.

Section 4: Saving of Marriages Solemnized According to Other Ceremonies
Validity of Other Sikh Marriages: Marriages conducted using different Sikh customs are still valid under this Act.

Section 5: Non-validation of Marriages within Prohibited Degrees
Limitations: The Act doesn't validate marriages between individuals closely related in ways that Sikh customary law considers illegal.

Section 6: Registration of Marriages
Section 6 addresses the registration of Anand marriages, allowing the state government to establish rules for registration, inspection, and issuance of certified extracts from a Marriage Register. It emphasizes that the validity of an Anand Marriage remains unaffected by the omission to register.

According to Article 246(2) which states that Both the Parliament and the state legislatures share the power to make laws on subjects in this list. However, if there is a conflict between a central law and a state law on a concurrent subject, the central law prevails.

The subject 5 of the List 3 Concurrent list includes: Marriage and divorce; infants and minors; adoption; wills, intestacy and succession; joint family and partition; all matters in respect of which parties in judicial proceedings were immediately before the commencement of this Constitution subject to their personal law.

It is certain from the aforesaid provisions that Anand Marriage Act entrusts each State Government in India with the authority to issue rules and guidelines for the systematic registration of Sikh marriages conducted through the Anand Karaj ceremony.

By giving State Governments the power to create rules, the legislation aims for a harmonious integration of Sikh marriage registration processes with existing laws, emphasizing the importance of local context and cultural diversity. The issuance of rules involves the maintenance of a Marriage Register, notification in the Official Gazette, and provision of certified extracts, contributing to the legal recognition and admissibility of Sikh marriages as evidence. It emphasizes the significance of local context and cultural diversity within the framework of national legislation.

Contemporary Relevance:
In 2012, the Parliament passed the Anand Marriage (Amendment) Bill, bringing Sikh traditional marriages under the purview of legal recognition. While the central government approved the amendments, it was left for individual states and Union territories to frame respective rules for the registration of Anand marriages.

The Haryana Anand Marriages Registration Rules, 2014, established through Notification No. S.O. 50/CA-7/1909/S-6/2014 on April 28, 2014, operationalized the Anand Marriage Act in the state. These rules, which acknowledged the customary Sikh marriage ceremonies known as Anand Karaj, not only signified the legal recognition of Sikh marriages but also established a structured framework for their registration.

To facilitate this process, the state government appointed officials, designating tehsildars for rural areas and specific authorities such as Joint Commissioners and Executive Officers for urban regions.

The registration procedure mandated the submission of two copies of a memorandum or agreement, along with written proof of the marriage and a registration fee of Rs 50, all to be completed within 30 days of the solemnization. Both parties involved and at least two witnesses were required to sign the agreement, ensuring legal formalities were met.

Similarly, in Punjab, where the Sikh population is predominant, The Punjab Anand Marriages Registration Rules were promulgated in 2016 through Notification No. G.S.R.83/C.A.7/1909/S.6/2016 on December 16, 2016. These rules echoed the objectives of the Haryana rules, emphasizing the recognition and systematic registration of Sikh marriages.

In addition to Haryana and Punjab, the national capital, Delhi, framed The Delhi Anand Marriages Registration Rules, 2018, as per Notification No. F. 1(4)/DC/MR/Revenue/2012/177, dated February 9, 2018. These rules, exercising the powers conferred by Section 6 of The Anand Marriage Act, 1909, further extended the legal framework for the recognition and registration of Sikh marriages within the region.

After the enforcement of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act 2019, the Anand Marriage Act is listed at number three among the central laws made applicable to the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir and the Union Territory of Ladakh under the 5th schedule of the act highlighting that subsection (2) of section 1, words, "except the State of Jammu and Kashmir" shall be omitted. Notably, the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir, under the administration's directive on November 30, 2023, formulated the 'Jammu and Kashmir Anand Marriage Registration Rules, 2023'.

This initiative was a pivotal move towards providing statutory recognition to Sikh marriage rituals within the territory. According to these rules, Tehsildars were designated as registrars for Anand marriages within their respective territorial jurisdictions. Sikh couples, under these rules, were permitted to apply for registration within three months of solemnizing their marriage, albeit subject to a late fee if formalities were completed after the deadline.

Despite the Act being in force in twenty-two states, such as Haryana, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Rajasthan, and Delhi, its comprehensive and earnest implementation has been lacking. There is a significant lack of awareness about the Anand Marriage Act.

In Conclusion, The 2012 amendment has witnessed progress in various states and Union Territories (UTs) where successive rules have been formed for the implementation of this act, offering relief to the Sikh couples. The Sikh community is overjoyed by the significant developments taking place in various states and Union Territories (Uts) regarding their marital registration, providing them with a separate identity and recognition they have long sought and demanded.

However, from a legal standpoint, this act and the subsequent rules are merely a cornerstone for the overall development of marriage and divorce laws within the Sikh community, a goal that hasn't been fulfilled yet.

Acknowledging the need for a separate marriage and divorce laws. Despite the widespread perception that registration under the Anand Marriage Act would be advantageous for Sikhs, including NRIs, the reality reveals potential challenges in explaining the unique cultural and spiritual significance of Anand Karaj to individuals from other countries.


Award Winning Article Is Written By: Mr.Niket Singh Kotwal, Student at The Law School, University of Jammu.
E-mail : [email protected]
Awarded certificate of Excellence
Authentication No: FB403327504349-2-0224

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