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The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 (Indian)

Act No. 25 of 1955

[18th May, 1955]

Preamble:---

An Act to amend and codify the law relating to marriage among Hindus.

 

BE it enacted by Parliament in the Sixth Year of the Republic of India as follows:---

 

1. Short title and extent.- (1) This Act may be called the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.


(2) It extends to the whole of
India except the State of Jammu and Kashmir, and applies also to Hindus domiciled in the territories to which this Act extends who are outside the said territories.

 

2. Application of Act.- (1) This Act applies,---


(a) to any person who is a Hindu by religion in any of its forms or developments, including a Virashaiva, a Lingayat or a follower of the Brahmo, Prarthana or Arya Samaj,

(b) to any person who is a Buddhist, Jaina or Sikh by religion, and

 

(c) to any other person domiciled in the territories to which this Act extends who is not a Muslim, Christian, Parsi or Jew by religion, unless it is proved that any such person would not have been governed by the Hindu law or by any custom or usage as part of that law in respect of any of the matters dealt with herein if this Act had not been passed.

Explanation.-The following persons are Hindus, Buddhists, Jainas or Sikhs by religion, as the case may be:---


(a) any child, legitimate or illegitimate, both of whose parents are Hindus, Buddhists, Jainas or Sikhs by religion;


(b) any child, legitimate or illegitimate, one of whose parents is a Hindu, Buddhist, Jaina or Sikh by religion and who is brought up as a member of the tribe, community, group or family to which such parent belongs or belonged; and


(c) any person who is a convert or re-convert to the Hindu, Buddhist, Jaina or Sikh religion.

(2) Notwithstanding any thing contained in sub-section (1), nothing contained in this Act shall apply to the members of any Scheduled tribe within the meaning of clause (25) of article 366 of the Constitution unless the Central Government, by notification in the Official Gazette, otherwise directs.


(3) The expression 'Hindu' in any portion of this Act shall be construed as if it included a person who, though not a Hindu by religion, is, nevertheless, a person to whom this Act applies by virtue of the provisions contained in this section.

 

3. Definitions.--- In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires,---


(a) the expressions "custom" and "usage" signify any rule which, having been continuously and uniformly observed for a long time, has obtained the force of law among Hindus in any local area, tribe, community, group or family:---


Provided that the rule is certain and not unreasonable or opposed to public policy; and


Provided further that in the case of a rule applicable only to a family it has not been discontinued by the family;


(b) "district court" means, in any area for which there is a city civil court, that court, and in any other area the principal civil court of original jurisdiction, and includes any other civil court which may be specified by the State Government, by notification in the Official Gazette, as having jurisdiction in respect of the matters dealt with in this Act;


(c) "full blood" and "half blood"-two persons are said to be related to each other by full blood when they are descended from a common ancestor by the same wife and by half blood when they are descended from a common ancestor but by different wives;


(d) "uterine blood"- two persons are said to be related to each other by uterine blood when they are descended from a common ancestress but by different husbands;


Explanation.-In clauses (c) and (d), "ancestor" includes the father and "ancestress" the mother;

(e) "prescribed" means prescribed by rules made under this Act;


(f) (i) "sapinda relationship" with reference to any person extends as far as the third generation (inclusive) in the line of ascent through the mother, and the fifth (inclusive) in the line of ascent through the father, the line being traced upwards in each case from the person concerned, who is to be counted as the first generation;


(ii) two persons are said to be "sapindas" of each other if one is a lineal ascendant of the other within the limits of sapinda relationship, or if they have a common lineal ascendant who is within the limits of sapinda relationship with reference to each of them;

(g) "degrees of prohibited relationship"-two persons are said to be within the "degrees of prohibited relationship"---


(i) if one is a lineal ascendant of the other; or


(ii) if one was the wife or husband of a lineal ascendant or descendant of the other; or


(iii) if one was the wife of the brother or of the father's or mother's brother or of the grandfather's or grandmother's brother of the other; or


(iv) if the two are brother and sister, uncle and niece, aunt and nephew, or children of brother and sister or of two brothers or of two sisters;


Explanation.-For the purposes of clauses (f) and (g), relationship includes,---


(i) relationship by half or uterine blood as well as by full blood;


(ii) illegitimate blood relationship as well as legitimate;


(iii) relationship by adoption as well as by blood and all terms of relationship in those clauses shall be construed accordingly.

 

4. Over-riding effect of Act.- Save as otherwise expressly provided in this Act,---


(a) any text, rule or interpretation of Hindu law or any custom or usage as part of that law in force immediately before the commencement of this Act shall cease to have effect with respect to any matter for which provision is made in this Act;


(b) any other law in force immediately before the commencement of this Act shall cease to have effect in so far as it is inconsistent with any of the provisions contained in this Act.

 

Hindu Marriage

 

5. Conditions for a Hindu marriage.- A marriage may be solemnized between any two Hindus, if the following conditions are fulfilled, namely:---


(i) neither party has a spouse living at the time of the marriage;


(ii) neither party is an idiot or a lunatic at the time of the marriage;


(iii) the bridegroom has completed the age of eighteen years and the bride the age of fifteen years at the time of the marriage;


(iv) the parties are not within the degrees of prohibited relationship, unless the custom or usage governing each of them permits of a marriage between the two;


(v) the parties are not sapindas of each other, unless the custom or usage governing each of them permits of a marriage between the two;


(vi) where the bride has not completed the age of eighteen years, the consent of her guardian in marriage, if any, has been obtained for the marriage.

 

6. Guardianship in marriage.- (1) Wherever the consent of a guardian in marriage is necessary for a bride under this Act, the persons entitled to give such consent shall be the following in the order specified there under, namely:---


(a) the father;


(b) the mother;


(c) the paternal grandfather;


(d) the paternal grandmother;


(e) the brother by full blood; as between brothers the elder being preferred;


(f) the brother by half blood; as between brothers by half blood the elder being preferred:---

Provided that the bride is living with him and is being brought up by him;


(g) the paternal uncle by full blood; as between paternal uncles the elder being preferred;

(h) the paternal uncle by half blood; as between paternal uncles by half blood the elder being preferred:---


Provided that the bride is living with him and is being brought up by him;


(i) the maternal grandfather;


(j) the maternal grandmother;


(k) the maternal uncle by full blood; as between maternal uncles the elder being preferred:

Provided that the bride is living with him and is being brought up by him.


(2) No person shall be entitled to act as a guardian in marriage under the provisions of this section unless such person has himself completed his or her twenty-first year.


(3) Where any person entitled to be the guardian in marriage under the foregoing provisions refuses, or is for any cause unable or unfit, to act as such, the person next in order shall be entitled to be the guardian.


(4) In the absence of any such person as is referred to in sub-section (1), the consent of a guardian shall not be necessary for a marriage under this Act.


(5) Nothing in this Act shall affect the jurisdiction of a court to prohibit by injunction an intended marriage, if in the interest of the bride for whose marriage consent is required, the court thinks it necessary to do so.

 

7. Ceremonies for a Hindu marriage.- (1) A Hindu marriage may be solemnized in accordance with the customary rites and ceremonies of either party thereto.


(2) Where such rites and ceremonies include the Saptapadi (that is, the taking of seven steps by the bridegroom and the bride jointly before the sacred fire), the marriage becomes complete and binding when the seventh step is taken.

 

8. Registration of Hindu marriages.- (1) For the purpose of facilitating the proof of Hindu marriages, the State Government may make rules providing that the parties to any such marriage may have the particulars relating to their marriage entered in such manner and subject to such conditions as may be prescribed in a Hindu Marriage Register kept for the purpose.


(2) Notwithstanding anything contained in sub-section (1), the State Government may, if it is of opinion that it is necessary or expedient so to do, provide that the entering of the particulars referred to in sub-section (1) shall be compulsory in the State or in any part thereof, whether in all cases or in such cases as may be specified, and where any such direction has been issued, any person contravening any rule made in this behalf shall be punishable with fine which may extend to twenty-five rupees.


(3) All rules made under this section shall be laid before the State Legislature, as soon as may be, after they are made.


(4) The Hindu Marriage Register shall at all reasonable times be open for inspection, and shall be admissible as evidence of the statements therein contained and certified extracts therefrom shall, on application, be given by the Registrar on payment to him of the prescribed fee.


(5) Notwithstanding anything contained in this section, the validity of any Hindu marriage shall in no way be affected by the omission to make the entry.

 

Restitution of conjugal rights and judicial separation

 

9. Restitution of conjugal rights.- (1) When either the husband or the wife has, without reasonable excuse, withdrawn from the society of the other, the aggrieved party may apply, by petition to the district court, for restitution of conjugal rights and the court, on being satisfied of the truth of the statements made in such petition and that there is no legal ground why the application should not be granted, may decree restitution of conjugal rights accordingly.


(2) Nothing shall be pleaded in answer to a petition for restitution of conjugal rights which shall not be a ground for judicial separation or for nullity of marriage or for divorce.

 

10. Judicial separation.- (1) Either party to a marriage, whether solemnized before or after the commencement of this Act, may present a petition to the district court praying for a decree for judicial separation on the ground that the other party,---


(a) has deserted the petitioner for a continuous period of not less than two years immediately preceding the presentation of the petition; or


(b) has treated the petitioner with such cruelty as to cause a reasonable apprehension in the mind of the petitioner that it will be harmful or injurious for the petitioner to live with the other party; or


(c) has, for a period of not less than one year immediately preceding the presentation of the petition, been suffering from a virulent form of leprosy; or


(d) has, immediately before the presentation of the petition, been suffering from venereal disease in a communicable form, the disease not having been contracted from the petitioner; or


(e) has been continuously of unsound mind for a period of not less than two years immediately preceding the presentation of the petition; or


(f) has, after the solemnization of the marriage, had sexual intercourse with any person other than his or her spouse.


Explanation.-In this section, the expression "desertion", with its grammatical variations and cognate expressions, means the desertion of the petitioner by the other party to the marriage without reasonable cause and without the consent or against the wish of such party, and includes the willful neglect of the petitioner by the other party to the marriage.

(2) Where a decree for judicial separation has been passed, it shall no longer be obligatory for the petitioner to cohabit with the respondent, but the court may, on the application by petition of either party and on being satisfied of the truth of the statements made in such petition, rescind the decree if it considers it just and reasonable to do so.

 

Nullity of Marriage and Divorce

 

11. Void marriages.- Any marriage solemnized after the commencement of this Act shall be null and void and may, on a petition presented by either party thereto, be so declared by a decree of nullity if it contravenes any one of the conditions specified in clauses (i), (iv) and (v) of section 5.

 

12. Voidable marriages.- (1) Any marriage solemnized, whether before or after the commencement of this Act, shall be voidable and may be annulled by a decree of nullity on any of the following grounds, namely:---


(a) that the respondent was impotent at the time of the marriage and continued to be so until the institution of the proceedings; or


(b) that the marriage is in contravention of the condition specified in clause (ii) of section 5; or


(c) that the consent of the petitioner, or where the consent of the guardian in marriage of the petitioner is required under section 5, the consent of such guardian was obtained by force or fraud; or


(d) that the respondent was at the time of the marriage pregnant by some person other than the petitioner.


(2) Notwithstanding anything contained in sub-section (1), no petition for annulling a marriage,---

(a) on the ground specified in clause (c) of sub-section (1) shall be entertained if,---


(i) the petition is presented more than one year after for force had ceased to operate or, as the case may be, the fraud had been discovered; or


(ii) the petitioner has, with his or her full consent, lived with the other party to the marriage as husband or wife after the force had ceased to operate or, as the case may be, the fraud had been discovered;


(b) on the ground specified in clause (d) of sub-section (1) shall be entertained unless the court is satisfied,---


(i) that the petitioner was at the time of the marriage ignorant of the facts alleged;


(ii) that proceedings have been instituted in the case of a marriage solemnized before the commencement of this Act within one year of such commencement and in the case of marriages solemnized after such commencement within one year from the date of the marriage; and


(iii) that marital intercourse with the consent of the petitioner has not taken place since the discovery by the petitioner of the existence of the grounds for a decree.

 

13. Divorce.- (1) Any marriage solemnized, whether before or after the commencement of this Act, may, on a petition presented by either the husband or the wife, be dissolved by a decree of divorce on the ground that the other party,---


(i) is living in adultery; or


(ii) has ceased to be a Hindu by conversion to another religion; or


(iii) has been incurably of unsound mind for a continuous period of not less than three years immediately preceding the presentation of the petition; or


(iv) has, for a period of not less than three years immediately preceding the presentation of the petition, been suffering from a virulent and incurable form of leprosy; or


(v) had, for a period of not less than three years immediately preceding the presentation of the petition, been suffering from venereal disease in a communicable form; or


(vi) has renounced the world by entering any religious order; or


(vii) has not been heard of as being alive for a period of seven years or more by those persons who would naturally have heard of it, had that party been alive; or


(viii) has not resumed cohabitation for a space of two years or upwards after the passing of a decree for judicial separation against that party; or


(ix) has failed to comply with a decree for restitution of conjugal rights for a period of two years or upwards after the passing of the decree.


(2) A wife may also present a petition for the dissolution of her marriage by a decree of divorce on the ground,---


(i) in the case of any marriage solemnized before the commencement of this Act, that the husband had married again before such commencement or that any other wife of the husband married before such commencement was alive at the time of the solemnization of the marriage of the petitioner:---


Provided that in either case the other wife is alive at the time of the presentation of the petition; or


(ii) that the husband has, since the solemnization of the marriage, been guilty of rape, sodomy or bestiality.

 

14. No petition for divorce to be presented within three years of marriage.- (1) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, it shall not be competent for any court to entertain any petition for dissolution of a marriage by a decree of divorce, unless at the date of the presentation of the petition three years have elapsed since the date of the marriage:

Provided that the court may, upon application made to it in accordance with such rules as may be made by the High Court in that behalf , allow a petition to be presented before three years have elapsed since the date of the marriage on the ground that the case is one of exceptional hardship to the petitioner or of exceptional depravity on the part of the respondent, but, if it appears to the court at the hearing of the petition that the petitioner obtained leave to present the petition by any misrepresentation or concealment of the nature of the case, the court may, if it pronounces a decree, do so subject to the condition that the decree shall not have effect until after the expiry of three years from the date of the marriage or may dismiss the petition without prejudice to any petition which may be brought after the expiration of the said three years upon the same or substantially the same facts as those alleged in support of the petition so dismissed.


(2) In disposing of any application under this section for leave to present a petition for divorce before the expiration of three years from the date of the marriage, the court shall have regard to the interests of any children of the marriage and to the question whether there is a reasonable probability of a reconciliation between the parties before the expiration of the said three years.

 

15. Divorced persons when may marry again.- When a marriage has been dissolved by a decree of divorce and either there is no right of appeal against the decree or, if there is such a right of appeal, the time for appealing has expired without an appeal having been presented, or an appeal has been presented but has been dismissed, it shall be lawful for either party to the marriage to marry again:---


Provided that it shall not be lawful for the respective parties to marry again unless at the date of such marriage at least one year has elapsed from the date of the decree in the court of the first instance.

 

16. Legitimacy of children of void and voidable, marriages.- Where a decree of nullity is granted in respect of any marriage under section 11 or section 12, any child begotten or conceived before the decree is made who would have been the legitimate child of the parties to the marriage if it had been dissolved instead of having been declared null and void or annulled by a decree of nullity shall be deemed to be their legitimate child notwithstanding the decree of nullity:---


Provided that nothing contained in this section shall be construed as conferring upon any child of a marriage which is declared null and void or annulled by a decree of nullity any rights in or to the property of any person other than the parents in any case where, but for the passing of this Act, such child would have been incapable of possessing or acquiring any such rights by reason of his not being the legitimate child of his parents.

 

17. Punishment of bigamy.- Any marriage between two Hindus solemnized after the commencement of this Act is void if at the date of such marriage either party had a husband or wife living; and the provisions of sections 494 and 495 of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860), shall apply accordingly.

 

18. Punishment for contravention of certain other conditions for a Hindu marriage.- Every person who procures a marriage of himself or herself to be solemnized under this Act in contravention of the conditions specified in clauses (iii), (iv), (v) and (vi) of section 5 shall be punishable,---


(a) in the case of a contravention of the condition specified in clause (iii) of section 5, with simple imprisonment which may extend to fifteen days, or with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees, or with both;


(b) in the case of a contravention of the condition specified in clause (iv) or clause (v) of section 5, with simple imprisonment which may extend to one month, or with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees, or with both; and


(c) in the case of a contravention of the condition specified in clause (vi) of section 5, with fine which may extend to one.

 

Jurisdiction and Procedure

 

19. Court to which petition should be made.- Every petition under this Act shall be presented to the district court within the local limits of whose ordinary original civil jurisdiction the marriage was solemnized or the husband and wife reside or last resided together.---

 

20. Contents and verification of petitions.- (1) Every petition presented under this Act shall state as distinctly as the nature of the case permits the facts on which the claim to relief is founded and shall also state that there is no collusion between the petitioner and the other party to the marriage.


(2) The statements contained in every petition under this Act shall be verified by the petitioner or some other competent person in the manner required by law for the verification of plaints, and may, at the hearing, be referred to as evidence.

 

21. Application of Act 5 of 1908.- Subject to the other provisions contained in this Act and to such rules as the High Court may make in this behalf, all proceedings under this Act shall be regulated, as far as may be, by the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (5 of 1908).

 

22. Proceedings may be in camera and may not be printed or published.- (1) a proceeding under this Act shall be conducted in camera if either party so desires or if the court so thinks fit to do, and it shall not be lawful for any person to print or publish any matter in relation to any such proceeding except with the previous permission of the court.

(2) If any person prints or publishes any matter in contravention of the provisions contained in sub-section (1), he shall be punishable with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees.

 

23. Decree in proceedings.- (1) In any proceeding under this Act, whether defended or not, if the court is satisfied that,---


(a) any of the grounds for granting relief exists and the petitioner is not in any way taking advantage of his or her own wrong or disability for the purpose of such relief, and

(b) where the ground of the petition is the ground specified in clause (f) of sub-section (1) of section 10, or in clause (i) of sub-section (1) of section 13, the petitioner has not in any manner been accessory to or connived at or condoned the act or acts complained of, or where the ground of the petition is cruelty the petitioner has not in any manner condoned the cruelty, and


(c) the petition is not presented or prosecuted in collusion with the respondent, and


(d) there has not been any unnecessary or improper delay in instituting the proceeding, and

(e) there is no other legal ground why relief should not be granted,
then, and in such a case, but not otherwise, the court shall decree such relief accordingly.


(2) Before proceeding to grant any relief under this Act, it shall be the duty of the court in the first instance, in every case where it is possible so to do consistently with the nature and circumstances of the case, to make every endeavor to bring about a reconciliation between the parties.

 

24. Maintenance pendente lite and expenses of proceedings.- Where in any proceeding under this Act it appears to the court that either the wife or the husband, as the case may be, has no independent income sufficient for her or his support and the necessary expenses of the proceeding, it may, on the application of the wife or the husband, order the respondent to pay to the petitioner the expenses of the proceeding, and monthly during the proceeding such sum as, having regard to the petitioner's own income and the income of the respondent, it may seem to the court to be reasonable.

 

25. Permanent alimony and maintenance.- (1) Any court exercising jurisdiction under this Act may, at the time of passing any decree or at any time subsequent thereto, on application made to it for the purpose by either the wife or the husband, as the case may be, order that the respondent shall, while the applicant remains unmarried, pay to the applicant for her or his maintenance and support such gross sum or such monthly or periodical sum for a term not exceeding the life of the applicant as, having regard to the respondent's own income and other property, if any, the income and other property of the applicant and the conduct of the parties, it may seem to the court to be just, and any such payment may be secured, if necessary, by a charge on the immovable property of the respondent.


(2) If the court is satisfied that there is a change in the circumstances of either party at any time after it has made an order under sub-section (1), it may, at the instance of either party, vary, modify or rescind any such order in such manner as the court may deem just.

(3) If the court is satisfied that the party in whose favour an order has been made under this section has remarried or, if such party is the wife, that she has not remained chaste, or, if such party is the husband, that he has had sexual intercourse with any woman outside wedlock, it shall rescind the order.

 

26. Custody of children.- In any proceeding under this Act, the court may, from time to time, pass such interim orders and make such provisions in the decree as it may deem just and proper with respect to the custody, maintenance and education of minor children, consistently with their wishes, wherever possible, and may, after the decree, upon application by petition for the purpose, make from time to time, all such orders and provisions with respect to the custody, maintenance and education of such children as might have been made by such decree or interim orders in case the proceeding for obtaining such decree were still pending, and the court may also from time to time revoke, suspend or vary any such orders and provisions previously made.

 

27. Disposal of property.- In any proceeding under this Act, the court may make such provisions in the decree as it deems just and proper with respect to any property presented, at or about the time of marriage, which may belong jointly to both the husband and the wife.

 

28. Enforcement of, and appeal from, decrees and orders.- All decrees and orders made by the court in any proceeding under this Act shall be enforced in like manner as the decrees and orders of the court made in the exercise of the original civil jurisdiction are enforced, and may be appealed from under any law for the time being in force.

Provided that there shall be no appeal on the subject of costs only.

 

29. Savings.- (1) A marriage solemnized between Hindus before the commencement of this Act, which is otherwise valid, shall not be deemed to be invalid or even to have been invalid by reason only of the fact that the parties thereto belonged to the same gotra or pravara or belonged to different religions, castes or sub-divisions of the same caste.


(2) Nothing contained in this Act shall be deemed to affect any right recognised by custom or conferred by any special enactment to obtain the dissolution of a Hindu marriage, whether solemnized before or after the commencement of this Act.


(3) Nothing contained in this Act shall affect any proceeding under any law for the time being in force for declaring any marriage to be null and void or for annulling or dissolving any marriage or for judicial separation pending at the commencement of this Act, and any such proceeding may be continued and determined as if this Act had not been passed.


(4) Nothing contained in this Act shall be deemed to affect the provisions contained in the Special marriage Act, 1954 (43 of 1954) with respect to marriages between Hinds solemnized under that Act, whether before or after the commencement of this Act.

 

30. Repeals.- The Hindu Marriage Disabilities Removal Act, 1946 (28 of 1946), the Hindu Marriages Validity Act, 1949 (21 of 1949), the Bombay Prevention of Hindu Bigamous marriages Act, 1946 (Bom.25 of 1946), the Bombay Hindu Divorce Act, 1947 (Bom.22 of 1947), the madras Hindu (Bigamy Prevention and Divorce) Act, 1949 (Mad.6 of 1949), the Saurashtra Prevention of Hindu Bigamous Marriages Act, 1950 (Souras.5 of 1950) and the Saurashtra Hindu Divorce Act, 1952 (Sauras.30 of 1952) are hereby repealed.

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