Well, India is yet to have its own uniform civil code, at present, every religion has its own personal laws which is a clear indication of the fact that events like marriage, divorce, adoption, inheritance etc. are different for everyone as per the religion they follow. But what happens when two people of different faiths get married? They are governed by the Special Marriage Act of 1954 (hereinafter referred to as ‘Act’) and not by their respective personal laws. This implies that one is free to follow the religious practices as they wish but their personal laws won’t be applicable if they marry a person who belongs to a different religion.
Conditions to get married under this Act
- Neither party has a living spouse.
- Capable of giving valid consent and not suffering from any mental disorder that makes him/her unfit for marriage or procreation of children.
- Neither party is subject to recurrent attacks of insanity.
- Both of them have completed the legal age of marriage.
- The parties are not within the degrees of prohibited relationship.
Unlike other personal laws, this Act states marriage between any two persons and not just between a male or a female. Does this mean that homosexual couples can also marry under the Act? If we go with the bare interpretation of the provisions, they can but since marriage between homosexual couples is yet not legalised in India and the case is pending before the Apex Court of the country, we can not comment upon the legal position until then.
Once your marriage is solemnised and registered under the Special Marriage Act, the whole game changes. Now your personal laws will no longer be applicable to both parties. Let us have a look at the consequences of marriage under this Act.
Inheritance is one of such aspects that is very unorganised in India because very few people pay heed to it but it surely becomes a huge headache after one’s death. Many people who married under this Act are unaware of how their property is distributed after death because their rights are rarely discussed, in contrast to Hindus' or Muslims' inheritance rights. But with the increase in inter-faith marriages in our country, it’s high time that people should be aware of certain crucial aspects of their lives. Even people may be unaware of the implications of marrying under this Act.
The two primary consequences of marrying under the Act
- Any member of an undivided family who practises the religions of Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, or Jainism who marries under the terms of this Act is regarded to be separated from that family and is no longer considered to be a part of it.
- Any person whose marriage is solemnised under this Act will no longer be subject to personal laws for inheritance purposes; instead, the provisions of the Indian Succession Act of 1925 will apply.
When a person dies without a Will, it is called dying intestate and the property is distributed among the legal heirs in accordance with the law. In the next part of this blog, we’ll cover the rules and division of property after one’s death among an interfaith couple married under this Act.
Stay tuned for the second part where we dive deeper into inheritance laws for interfaith couples in India.