The Supreme Court of India Friday ruled that all interfaith marriages conducted according to Hindu rites under the Hindu Marriage Act 1955 are void.
The court heard a criminal appeal petition filed by an Indian-American Christian named Ajay P. Mathew. Mathew was accused of polygamy by his alleged partner, Satya Sri, who lives in India. The Southern state of Telangana prosecuted Mathew under section 494 of the Indian Penal Code, which reads:
Marrying again during lifetime of husband or wife.—Whoever, having a husband or wife living, marries in any case in which such marriage is void by reason of its taking place during the life of such husband or wife, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine.
However, this section does not apply to persons whose marriage had been declared void by the court. The Telangana High Court refused to quash proceedings against Mathew under the aforementioned section, and he appealed to the Supreme Court.
The court observed that Sri had not submitted any evidence of her marriage with Mathew. The judges found fault with the High Court for admitting the complaint without any evidence and observed that the police machinery had been “misused.” Finally, the court held that only Hindu couples can marry according to Hindu rites under the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955, not inter-faith couples. Interfaith marriage is governed by a different law, the Special Marriage Act of 1954.
The court scheduled further hearings on this appeal in February.