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Programmes for Women and their Impact:The Special Marriage Act, 1954

This Act came into force on April 1, 1955. It repealed the Special Marriage Act, 1872 which provided a form of marriage for those who did not wish to conform to the existing forms. The 1872 Act provided that persons wishing to marry (under the Act) had to declare that they did not profess Hindu, Jain, Sikh, Muslim, Parsis, Christian or any other religion. In 1923, an amendment was made in the Act under which a person wanting to marry (under the Act) had not to give any such declaration. Each party was simply required to make a declaration that it professed one or other religion.

The Act, thus, recognized inter-religion marriages. The conditions pertaining to age, living spouse, prohibited relationship and mental state as prescribed by the 1954 Act for marriage are the same as provided in the 1955 Act. Under the 1954 Act, a marriage officer solemnizes the marriage. The parties have to notify him at least a month before the marriage date. One of the parties must have resided in the district in which the marriage officer's office is located.

During this one month, any person can raise objection against the marriage. If the marriage is not solemnized within three months from the date of notice, a fresh notice is required. Presence of two witnesses is necessary at the time of marriage. This Act also provides for the annulment of marriage, judicial separation, as well as divorce and alimony. The grounds for these are the same as provided in the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.