KOCHI: A single judge of the Kerala High Court on Wednesday referred to a larger bench the legal question of whether a wedding under the Special Marriage Act (SMA) could be solemnised online via videoconferencing.
Justice P B Suresh Kumar passed the order on a batch of writ petitions seeking a directive to solemnise marriages under the Act through videoconferencing as the petitioners could not present themselves physically before the marriage officer. According to the petitioners, the physical presence of the bride and groom is not required while solemnising the wedding as per the Act.
The court observed that the number of cases coming up before the court involving situations where one or both parties to the intended marriage had to leave the country, after giving notice, on account of the inevitable social requirements and could not, consequently, solemnise the marriage. Cases involving situations in which the parties to the marriage, who have left India after giving notice of the intended marriage, could not come back due to reasons beyond their control and could not consequently solemnise the marriage, have also come to the notice of the court.
A pragmatic interpretation of the provisions of the Act would redress the grievances of many such people, observed the court. The state government submitted that solemnisation is mandatory prior to registration of marriage. Therefore, the presence of both parties as well as the witnesses before the Marriage Officer is mandatory.