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Petition filed in SC challenging provisions of Special Marriage Act on disclosure of details

A plea has been moved by third-year law student from Kerala Nandini Praveen, through Advocates Nishe Rajen Shonker and Kaleeswaram Raj, before the Supreme Court challenging few provisions of the Special Marriage Act for being violative of fundamental rights of the citizens.

The respective petition filed before the apex court seeking directions to strike down of Sections 6 (2), 7, 8 and 10 of the Special Marriage Act, 1954 for being unjust, illegal and unconstitutional, and violative of Articles 14, 15 and 21 of the Indian Constitution.

As stated by the petitioner, a law student, there exists a peculiar requirement in the Special Marriage Act wherein Marriage Officers have to publish details of notice of marriage including the details of the parties like names, date of birth, age, occupation, parents’ names and details, address, pin code, identity information, phone number etc. Therefore, Clauses (2) and (3) of Section 6 to the extent to which those direct to cause affixation of notice in some conspicuous place in the office of Marriage Officer are violative of the right to privacy of the parties to the marriage. Sections 7 to 8 and 10 of the Special Marriage Act and Section 9 to the extent to which it deals with inquiry under Section 8 of the Act are also violative of the right to privacy of the parties to the marriage. These provisions are liable to be struck down.

Furthermore, taking into account the requirement of notice, the petitioner has stated that such notice before marriage is not required under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 and customary laws in Islam. Therefore, the said provision is also discriminatory and violative of Article 14 of the Constitution of India,” avers the plea.

It was submitted by the petitioner that the impugned provisions seriously damage one’s right to have control over her or his personal information and its accessibility, through the requirement of displaying their personal information open to public scrutiny. Such provisions also defy the three-pronged test of proportionality i.e. legality, legitimacy and proportionality, as laid down by the Supreme Court in Justice KS Puttaswamy v. Union of India, the plea claims. 

This decision of the Apex Court in 2017, proclaiming that Right to privacy was part of a person’s fundamental right had a major role to play in setting off new waves of discussions regarding the importance of a person’s privacy. 

Another contention made in the plea was, no legitimate State interest that is being protected by the publication of the personal and intimate details of the parties to the marriage.

“Marriage reflects a private decision taken by two consenting adults and the SMA was formulated to provide a secular form of marriage. By making the personal details of the couple accessible to everyone, the very right of the couple to be the decision-makers of their marriage is being hampered by the State.”

The petition also states that challenged provisions of the SMA, namely public notice under Section 6(2) and 6(3). poses a threat to the individuals lives. In reference to the same, petitioner cited reports of honour killings and violence against inter-caste and inter-religious couples. 




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